• The Music of MACBETH

    By COC Staff

    The must-see work of the season hits the COC stage this spring when our brand-new production of Verdi’s Macbeth makes its Canadian premiere! A soaring score punctuates one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies in this classic tale of power, ambition, and violence from internationally renowned director Sir David McVicar.

    Co-produced by the Lyric Opera of Chicago, our production made its stateside debut last fall to widespread acclaim. Epic costumes, sets, and special effects bring this grand spectacle to life on the stage, garnering praise as a “taut, riveting production [taking] the audience directly into the vortex of the Thane of Cawdor’s madness.” 

    A fervent fan of Shakespeare—and of Macbeth in particular—Verdi sought to compose a score fitting of the play he called “one of the greatest creations of man.” Premiering in 1847, the first version of Verdi’s opera closely followed the source material with few exceptions, and garnered considerable success touring his home country of Italy. Following requests for a revised version to premiere in Paris, the composer went to work rewriting much of the opera alongside Francesco Maria Piave, librettist for such revered Verdi operas as La Traviata and Rigoletto. This new version—which featured additional arias for Lady Macbeth, a ballet, a new chorus, and a new Act 4 ending—made its French premiere in 1865 to a poor critical reception. The 1865 production did, however, lay the foundation for its long-term popularity as the main version performed today.

    Mirroring the work’s protagonist, much of Macbeth’s success can be attributed to the ever-intriguing character of Lady Macbeth. Indeed, while Verdi notes how the Witches—sung not by three independent performers but by a chorus divided in three—“rule the drama,” Lady Macbeth’s impact on the show’s story and legacy is undeniable. Verdi sought “a harsh, stifled, dark timbre” for the role, the right mix of charming and cruel, and thus capable of producing what the composer described as “the voice of a devil.” While countless talented sopranos have sung the role, many point to Maria Callas’ 1952 Teatro alla Scala performance as a major moment influencing the opera’s current popularity. Singing the role in our production is opera star Sondra Radvanovsky, who brings her expertise from the production’s Chicago premiere, and reunites with McVicar, who directed her in the COC’s 2019 production of Rusalka, in another meeting of theatre and opera royalty. 

    Not to be outdone by his powerful wife, the opera’s titular role offers similarly complex contributions to both the music and drama. Requiring a powerful and charismatic baritone to master the role, Macbeth experiences an epic rise and fall in his thirst for the throne, punctuated beautifully in arias like act 4’s “Pietà, rispetto, amore.” Damning his enemies while simultaneously lamenting his downfall, Macbeth cries, “this attack will confirm me on my throne or overthrow me forever!” Singing the role in our production is COC favourite Quinn Kelsey, acclaimed for his role as Germont in our 2015 production of La Traviata. In Kelsey, COC audiences get their first taste of a powerful Shakespearean bass-baritone since Gerald Finley's incredible Iago in our 2019 production of Otello.

    As we set the stage for the start of our 2022/2023 season, we look forward to welcoming our audiences to the Canadian premiere of this new production! Enjoy a sneak peek with a clip from our Season Preview Concert, featuring COC Ensemble Studio graduate Vartan Gabrielian performing “Come dal ciel precipita.”

    Join us for Macbeth, opening April 28, 2023 and running until May 20, 2023. Tickets on sale Friday, September 2.

    Photos: Ken Howard
    Posted in 22/23 Season


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