The story of Verdi’s Shakespearean operas is not the operas he did compose but the one that he longed to set to music all his life but never somehow managed. And that was King Lear. Verdi loved Shakespeare. He always carried an Italian version of Shakespeare’s plays with him and for a long time had envisaged setting the play to music. He talked to his librettist about it constantly but never made any concrete attempt to fulfil that dream.
For a composer who wrote 28 operas, Giuseppe Verdi continuously complained of having to write music for a living. As time went by, following his purchase of Sant’Agata his frustrations grew worse. All he wanted to do was devote himself to farming. He used various reasons with the opera companies and his publisher, Ricordi, to try and weasel himself out of contracts, from being unable to work with some singers or the libretto wasn’t ready in time or he didn’t like the set or the costumes etc etc.
But in the case of Shakespeare’s Macbeth he seemed relatively happy although he did whinge about the soprano chosen to sing Lady Macbeth. Eventually he settled for Marianna Barbieri-Nini. His librettist was Francesco-Maria Piave and his instructions to him were precise: short verses and “concise sublime language, except for the witches’ chorus” which had to be coarse. Continue reading SHAKESPEARE IN VERDI’S OPERAS