Macbeth, Lady

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(Verdi: Macbeth). Sop. Wife of Macbeth. She is a very strong-minded lady, determined to see her husband become king of Scotland and quite prepared to murder anyone standing in his way. It is at her urging that her husband kills the present monarch, King Duncan. When Macbeth is too unnerved to return to the scene of his crime to replace the dagger he used, Lady Macbeth, undaunted, takes it back for him. But, in her famous sleepwalking scene, her servant and doctor overhear her talking of the dreadful crimes the two of them have committed. This is equivalent to the ‘mad scene’ of Italian opera of the previous generation (Bellini, Donizetti), so beloved by sopranos, as it gave them the chance to show off both their vocal and histrionic capabilities. Arias: Vieni, t'affretta (‘Hie thee hither’); La luce langue (‘The weak light thickens’); duet with Macbeth as above. This is a remarkable role for a singing actress, one of the earliest Verdi roles in which the psychological development of the character is matched by the music's development. Created (1847) by Marianna Barbieri-Nini (who received a tremendous ovation after the sleepwalking scene. Verdi went round to her dressing-room, but the two of them were so overcome they were hardly able to speak).

Subjects: Opera.

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