Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbetto, based on the core of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, was composed in his formative opera period in 1847, some 40 years earlier than his final two marvellous tributes to Shakespeare, Otello and Falstaff.
Although it does not offer the sweeping grandeur of Don Carlos or match the popularity of Rigoletto or La Traviata, Macbeth includes some very fine music, particularly in the principal arias and in the duets between husband and wife.
The work deviates from Shakespeare’s original with Verdi concentrating his opera on three principal figures: Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and the Witches.
While Macbeth (sung by José Carbó) is the central figure in the unfolding of the tragedy, Lady Macbeth (Anna-Louise Cole) is clearly the more commanding character, as her music proves. The Witches are portrayed as a chorus of voices, rather than three hags. In turn they form an important part of a larger choral group based on the Greek chorus model, by turns narrator, commentator and herald.
Other characters are reduced in stature....