Verdi - Macbeth - mp3

Full Libretto in English


Role Voice type Premiere Cast,
14 March 1847
(Conductor: Giuseppe Verdi)
Revised version
Premiere Cast,
19 April 1865
(Conductor: Michel Adolphe Deloffre)
Macbeth baritone Felice Varesi Jean-Vital Jammes ("Ismaël")
Lady Macbeth soprano Marianna Barbieri-Nini Amélie Rey-Balla
Banquo bass Nicola Benedetti Jules "Giulio" Bilis-Petit
Macduff tenor Angelo Brunacci Jules-Sébastien Monjauze
Lady-in-waiting mezzo-soprano Faustina Piombanti Mairot
Malcolm tenor Francesco Rossi Auguste Huet
Doctor bass Giuseppe Romanelli Prosper Guyot
Servant to Macbeth bass Giuseppe Romanelli Péront
Herald bass Giuseppe Bertini Gilland
Assassin bass Giuseppe Bertini Caillot
Three apparitions 2 sopranos and 1 bass
Duncano (Duncan), King of Scotland Silent
Fleanzio (Fleance) Silent
Witches, messengers, nobles, attendants, refugees - chorus


Note: there are several differences between the 1847 and the 1865 versions which are noted below in indented text in brackets

Place: Scotland
Time: 11th century

Act 1

Scene 1: A heath

Groups of witches gather in a wood beside a battlefield. The victorious generals Macbeth and Banquo enter. The witches hail Macbeth as Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor, and king "hereafter." Banquo is greeted as the founder of a great line of future kings. The witches vanish, and messengers from the king appear naming Macbeth Thane of Cawdor.

Scene 2: Macbeth's castle

Lady Macbeth reads a letter from her husband telling of the encounter with the witches. She is determined to propel Macbeth to the throne.

[Revised version only: Vieni! t'affretta! - "Come! Hurry!"].

Lady Macbeth is advised that King Duncan will stay in the castle that night; she is determined to see him killed (Or tutti, sorgete - "Arise now, all you ministers of hell"). When Macbeth returns she urges him to take the opportunity to kill the King. The King and the nobles arrive and Macbeth is emboldened to carry out the murder (Mi si affaccia un pugnal? - "Is this a dagger which I see before me?"), but afterwards is filled with horror. Disgusted at his cowardice, Lady Macbeth completes the crime, incriminating the sleeping guards by smearing them with Duncan's blood and planting on them Macbeth's dagger. The murder is discovered by Macduff. A chorus calls on God to avenge the killing (Schiudi, inferno, . . - "Open wide thy gaping maw, O Hell").

Act 2

Scene 1: A room in the castle

Macbeth is now king, but disturbed by the prophecy that Banquo, not he, will found a great royal line. To prevent this he tells his wife that he will have both Banquo and his son murdered as they come to a banquet.

[Revised version only: In her aria, La luce langue - "The light fades", Lady Macbeth exults in the powers of darkness]

Scene 2: Outside the castle

A gang of murderers lie in wait. Banquo is apprehensive (Come dal ciel precipita - "O, how the darkness falls from heaven"). He is caught, but enables his son Fleanzio to escape.

Scene 3: A dining hall in the castle

Macbeth receives the guests and Lady Macbeth sings a brindisi (Si colmi il calice - "Fill up the cup"). The assassination is reported to Macbeth, but when he returns to the table the ghost of Banquo is sitting in his place. Macbeth raves at the ghost and the horrified guests believe he has gone mad. The banquet ends abruptly with their hurried, frightened departure.

Act 3

The witches' cave

The witches gather around a cauldron in a dark cave. Macbeth enters and they conjure up three apparitions for him. The first advises him to beware of Macduff. The second tells him that he cannot be harmed by a man 'born of woman'. The third that he cannot be conquered till Birnam Wood marches against him. (Macbeth: O lieto augurio - "O, happy augury! No wood has ever moved by magic power")

Macbeth is then shown the ghost of Banquo and his descendants, eight future Kings of Scotland, verifying the original prophecy. (Macbeth: Fuggi regal fantasima - "Begone, royal phantom that reminds me of Banquo"). He collapses, but regains consciousness in the castle.

[Original version: The act ends with Macbeth recovering and resolving to assert his authority: Vada in fiamme, e in polve cada - "Macduff's lofty stronghold shall / Be set fire....".]

A herald announces the arrival of the Queen. Macbeth tells his wife of his encounter with the witches and they resolve to track down and kill Banquo's son and Macduff's family (Duet: Ora di morte e di vendetta - "Hour of death and of vengeance").

Act 4

Scene 1: Near the border between England and Scotland

Scottish refugees stand near the English border (Chorus: Patria oppressa - "Down-trodden country")

[Original version: While each version uses the same libretto, the music of this chorus is different. It begins with a less ominous, much shorter orchestral introduction and is sung straight though by the entire chorus compared to the later version's division of the music into sections for the male and female members, then uniting towards the end. The revised version is 2 minutes longer than the original.]

In the distance lies Birnam Wood. Macduff is determined to avenge the deaths of his wife and children at the hands of the tyrant (Ah, la paterna mano - "Ah, the paternal hand"). He is joined by Malcolm, the son of King Duncan, and the English army. Malcolm orders each soldier to cut a branch from a tree in Birnam Wood and carry it as they attack Macbeth's army. They are determined to liberate Scotland from tyranny (Chorus: La patria tradita - "Our country betrayed").

Scene 2: Macbeth's castle

A doctor and a servant observe the Queen as she walks in her sleep, wringing her hands and attempting to clean them of blood (Una macchia è qui tuttora! - "Yet here's a spot").

Scene 3: The battlefield

Macbeth has learned that an army is advancing against him but is reassured by remembering the words of the apparitions (Pietà, rispetto, amore - "Compassion, honour, love"). He receives the news of the Queen's death with indifference. Rallying his troops he learns that Birnam Wood has indeed come to his castle. Battle is joined.

[Ending of the original version:] Macduff pursues and fights Macbeth who falls. He tells Macbeth that he was not "born of woman" but "ripped" from his mother's womb. Fighting continues. Mortally wounded, Macbeth, in a final aria - Mal per me che m'affidai - "Trusting in the prophesies of Hell" - proclaims that trusting in the prophesies of hell caused his downfall. He dies on stage, while Macduff's men proclaim Macduff to be the new King.

Macduff pursues and fights Macbeth who falls wounded. He tells Macbeth that he was not "born of woman" but "ripped" from his mother's womb. Macbeth responds in anguish (Cielo! - "Heaven") and the two continue fighting, then disappear from view. Macduff returns indicating to his men that he has killed Macbeth. The scene ends with a hymn to victory sung by bards, soldiers, and Scottish women (Salva, o re! - "Hail, oh King!).