Verdi’s 3rd course is not sweet

Continuing the celebrations of Verdi’s 200th birthday and the upcoming 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth in April, the Royal Danish Theatre is staging Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth.

Completed in what are known as the Italian maestro’s ‘gallery years’ – a period of 16 years during which he created 22 operas – it was his first Shakespeare-inspired masterpiece.

It was met with great acclaim in 1847, and the Italian composer cherished it so much he dedicated it to his former father-in-law and supporter, saying: “Now, I send you Macbeth which I prize above all my other operas, and therefore deem worthier to present to you.”

Verdi was well aware that his forte was dramatic expression, so he always sought to find plots that best fit his particular talents. His Macbeth follows the synopsis of the Shakespearian play of the same name, a clash of corrupt intentions and noble pursuits in a classic tale of a usurper who tries to gain power by any means in just four acts.  But while Macbeth is the main anti-hero, he has an accomplice who is more than his equal, Lady Macbeth, to help him carry out his fiendish crimes.

The challenge when staging the opera is to make the chemistry between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth feel authentic while depicting the fall of a noble lord who is consumed by his greed and, ultimately, his guilt. Unlike traditional villains, like Iago from the opera Otello (also by Verdi), they are haunted by remorse and the ghosts of their deeds. And when the hellish prophecies of the opening act come true, their plans are foiled and Macbeth meets his destiny.

Ahead of its premiere on November 14, it has already been described as a brave production willing to take risks, not least for its decision to recruit Australian theatre director Benedict Andrews, who has been described as “the kind of director who ruffles feathers”. The part of Macbeth is being shared by Uruguayan baritone Dario Solari and the Royal Danish Opera’s John Lundgren (who is also currently starring in Otello as Iago until November 23).

Verdi stipulated that he wanted Lady Macbeth to look “ugly and evil” and to sound “rough, harsh and gloomy”, so the casting of the kindly looking Anne Margrethe Dahl in the role of Lady Macbeth might surprise some. With almost 25 years’ experience in the opera, she will surely give a noteworthy performance, but not perhaps the “rough” one the composer had in mind.

The opera might not prove to be as easily digestible as the light-hearted Falstaff, but who wants comedy when you’ve got insights into the frail, malleable and insecure nature of the human psyche. 


Operaen Store Scene, Ekvipagemestervej 10, Cph K 
Starts Thu (Nov 14), ends Nov 27, performances at 19:30 (unless stated) on Sun (15:00), Wed, Nov 20, Nov 24 (15:00), Nov 27
Tickets 195-895kr 

Duration 180 mins including interval; sung in Italian with Danish supertitles