‘Macbeth’ based on Shakespeare’s much-performed drama is without doubt the most demonic of the works by Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901). It concerns the transient nature of power and demonstrates how a chain of violence, terror and paranoia can be created that turns a respected warrior into a tyrant and helpless butcher. In response to the witches’ prophecies Macbeth is overcome by an unprecedented ambition and thirst for power that is then dangerously fuelled by his wife. However, the burden of guilt increases along with their power and as the number of their crimes increases, so does their madness.
‘Macbeth’ was a daring undertaking in the context of French and Italian opera practice of its time, with regard to both its gruesome subject matter and its lack of the usually compulsory love story. The sick spirits of both protagonists dominate both the music and the drama, combining the two with a rare coherence.
Following his impressive interpretation of ‘Otello’, Michael Thalheimer now takes on another Verdi opera based on the great English dramatist William Shakespeare. Where does violence in people come from? Like the poison that Iago instils into the doubting Otello, the witches’ prophecies now reflect human compulsions that discharge themselves, leading to madness and death.