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Highlights from Verdi's Macbeth this week on the Lyric Stage

Verdi wrote Macbeth, his tenth opera, for the Teatro della Pergola in Florence, where it premiered on 14 March 1847. Verdi deeply respected Shakespeare, and worked hard to maintain the integrity of his source when he set about to write his own version of Macbeth. Critic Gary Wills has noted the many affinites of Shakespeare and Verdi, how they worked in theater conditions with many similarities, supplying performances on a heavy schedule, to audiences with a voracious appetite for what they wrote, and both had to be aware of censors. They both were also hands on in the details of their productions, and each was constrained by the talent available to them for a given role. Shakespeare famously wrote much shorter parts for women because they were played by boys. And for Macbeth, Verdi did not have what he thought was a worthy tenor, so he wrote Macduff as a minor role. Verdi said that there were only three main characters in Macbeth - Macbeth, his wife, and the witches. Verdi respected his singers, often asking their approval of how he wrote music for them to be sure that they felt it best fit their voice, much as Shakespeare wrote for his band of actors what best suited their abilities and types.