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2016.11 Prolog, Magazine of Vienna Staatsoper: Alles ist Teil der selben Geschichte

Prolog, the magazine of Vienna Staatsoper, 12.2016

Alles ist Teil der selben Geschichte

Everything is Part of the Same Story


also published on their blog

What is a coward? A coward is not necessarily quiet, withdrawn and anxious. A coward can also be loud, arrogant and haughty. No, a coward is someone who shrinks back  from going the way he should go or that he promised to go. A coward does not stick to his own convictions. The music of a coward can definitely be quite powerful, even persistent– Verdi gave Macbeth just such music. You are not supposed to expect that Macbeth’s music expresses weakness. Not even that Macbeth shows weakness in connection with the other people surrounding him. At least not always. Anxiety has many faces besides cowardice and weakness. None of these characteristics is therefore openly black and white.  She, the Lady, is clearly the driving force behind the series of murders, the disastrous acts. She develops the plan. But she needs him for many different reasons. She manipulates and controls her husband, this much is apparent. But the relationship between the two of them is more complex than that. Macbeth is not just his Lady’s puppet– at least not more of a puppet of than a soldier is of the commander of his army. No this relationship is much more complex. And at the end? At the end we will see a weak person who has neither the power to do the right thing nor the determination and intelligence to put the wrong thing right. His aria is a pathetic monologue full of the admission of guilt and regret. He realises that he has acted wrongly, he realises – too late – the depravity of his wife.

When you study the score of Macbeth you will soon discover that Verdi has designed it in full colour, and with a change of light and darkness. Macbeth is sometimes full of pathos. After the murder he is stained with blood. At this moment he is lost, like a child, and his wife guides him by this blood drenched hand. She encourages him, urges him to act according to her plan – the same plan from which he suddenly shrinks away. Of course we do not experience Macbeth like this throughout the opera. The wonderful Italian word chiaroscuro outlines the music, the atmosphere of this opera. Every few minutes Verdi changes the colours, surprises us with breathtaking details. We know that he was not content with the first performance and rehearsed in the intermission with the singers to make his manifold intentions audible.

Verdi appealed to the singer’s conscience to attach great value to the acting. Why? Because opera is stylized theatre. And indeed it would be good for EVERY singer to take a lot of time to explore the acting characterization of his/her part and to apply the experience gained to his/her vocal interpretation. Everything is colour. Everything is part of the same story. Some things can be told better through your body, other things through your voice and other things by both elements equally. Wozzeck, Rigoletto, Posa, Germont, Papageno and even Macbeth –  you can best bring all these stage characters to life on stage by a fusion of voice and acting. Verdi’s huge admiration for Shakespeare is widely known. All the more remarkable is that he wrote the first version of Macbeth before he had even read the original, even in a translation. At first Verdi only knew a summary – a shortened version. This explains why, in the first version of his Macbeth, he added a “death” aria for his protagonist, which is wonderful music but does not follow the Shakespearean line. Later, after finally reading the play, he reworked the end and adapted it to match the original. Because Verdi did not want to stand in opposition to his dramatic model – Shakespeare.


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