August 10, 2021

Get to know: Verdi's Macbeth

Verdi's First Masterpiece

Lyric is planning a spectacular 2021/22 Season opener — a new production of Verdi’s thrilling Macbeth, continuing the company’s Early Verdi Series. This adaptation of Shakespeare’s smoldering tragedy represents a moment in the career of Italy’s greatest opera composer when his genius was truly taking wing. Macbeth is filled with massive ensembles and choruses, and also some of the most riveting arias and duets in all of Verdi. The opera premiered in 1847, and eighteen years later, Verdi was able to revise it to make it even more riveting, both dramatically and musically.

Banco (Ryan Opera Center alumnus Christian Van Horn) hears the witches' prophecies in Act One of Lyric's 2021/22 production of Macbeth

Whether in the theater or the opera house, Macbeth is one of the most memorable — and most harrowing — stories of how obsession with power can destroy the people who wield it. After a group of eerie witches predict that Macbeth will become King of Scotland, his wife urges him to kill King Duncan. Macbeth does indeed assume the throne and continues to order murders to eliminate his enemies, but disaster eventually overtakes him and his wife as the forces of good prevail.

Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky makes her role debut as Lady Macbeth in Lyric's 2021/22 production of Verdi's Macbeth.

This opera’s title role requires a true singing actor — a baritone with both velvet and thrust in the voice, who can command the stage with terrific power and charisma. Lady Macbeth needs a stupendous dramatic-coloratura soprano voice, with flexibility to burn and an exciting darkness in the sound as well, not to mention theatrical flair worthy of Judi Dench or Glenda Jackson. The chemistry between these two characters rivet the audience, as they blaze through some of Verdi’s most thrilling music. The roles of valiant Macduff (tenor) and noble Banco (bass) have wonderful arias as well, and the choruses — for the witches, banquet guests, and Scottish refugees — add more excitement.

Lyric's 2021/22 production of Macbeth features soprano Sondra Radvanovsky as Lady Macbeth and baritone Craig Colclough in the title role. 

Lyric’s new production is directed by Sir David McVicar, whose extraordinary creativity and imagination have been acclaimed at Lyric in works by Britten (Billy Budd), Verdi (Il trovatore), Massenet (Manon), Dvořák (Rusalka), Mozart (La clemenza di Tito), Strauss (Elektra), and Berg (Wozzeck). He’s working with two of his most brilliant colleagues, designers John Macfarlane (scenery) and Moritz Junge (costumes).

Sketch for the 2021/22 Season production of Verdi's Macbeth by set designer John Macfarlane.

As Macbeth, Lyric will welcome for the first time the American bass-baritone Craig Colclough, who recently debuted the role of Macbeth at the Metropolitan Opera in 2019. Macbeth will be a momentous occasion for one of the Lyric audience’s favorite artists, American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky — her first Lady Macbeth, one of the operatic world’s most eagerly awaited role debuts of recent years. The fast-rising American tenor Joshua Guerrero will debut as Macduff, and our Banco will be one of the Ryan Opera Center’s most renowned alumni, American bass-baritone Christian Van Horn. Maestro Enrique Mazzola, Lyric’s music director, and one of today’s most eminent Verdians, will conduct.

For chills and thrills anywhere in Chicago during the 2021/22 Season, nothing will to top Lyric’s new Macbeth!

September 17 – October 9, 2021



Lyric’s riveting season opener is the inaugural production of Music Director Enrique Mazzola's tenure, and a brand-new production from Sir David McVicar. Adapting one of the greatest tragedies written by his hero, Shakespeare, Verdi created a stunning portrait of the most power-hungry couple who ever trod a stage. Macbeth’s bloody ascent to the throne of Scotland — led and supported by his wife’s own consuming ambition — results in disaster for them both. Verdi brings them to blazing life in a score that bristles with energy and endless excitement. Grand-scale arias, hair-raising duets, stupendous ensembles — they’re all here, in the first genuine masterpiece of Verdi’s career.

Photos: Ken Howard

An original sketch from designer John Macfarlane for Macbeth.