Macbeth (Bloch)

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Macbeth is an opera in three acts, with music by Ernest Bloch to a libretto by Edmond Fleg, after the eponymous play of William Shakespeare. Bloch composed the opera between 1904 and 1906, but it did not receive its first performance until 30 November 1910 by the Opéra-Comique in Paris with Henri Albers in the title role and conducted by François Ruhlmann. Alex Cohen has written of quarrels within the cast that contributed to the opera's poorly received premiere.

Performance history[edit]

After the premiere, the opera was performed 15 times through January 1911, but then was withdrawn.[1] Romain Rolland had studied the score and communicated his admiration to Bloch in June 1911.[2]

Guido Gatti has compared elements of Bloch's opera to the music of Modest Mussorgsky.[3] He has also written of the different treatments of the Macbeth story by Giuseppe Verdi and Bloch in their respective operas on the subject, with Verdi being more "realistic" and Bloch being more in keeping with the symbolist era in art at his time.[4]

After the premiere production, the opera was staged in 1938 in Naples, but was then banned on orders of the Fascist government. Subsequently, the opera was produced in Rome in 1953, and in Trieste.[5]

The opera was staged, in English, at the Juilliard School of Music in New York under the direction of John Houseman, in May 1973. Peter Herman Adler conducted and the singers included L. Carlson, H. Barnsley, R. Termine, F. Burchinal, M. Li-Paz and W. White.[6]

The University College Opera of University College, London, performed the English language premiere of Macbeth in the UK in March 2009.[7]

The US premiere by a professional opera company was given by the Long Beach Opera in June 2013 in a production by Andreas Mitisek with Benjamin Makino conducting.[8] That same production was staged by the Chicago Opera Theater in September 2014 with Francesco Milioto conducting.[9]

The opera was staged, in the original French, at the Manhattan School of Music in December 2014 under the direction of Dona D. Vaughn with Laurent Pillot conducting.[10]


Role Type Character Voice type Role creator[11]
Major Macbeth Baritone Henri Albers
Major Lady Macbeth Dramatic Soprano/ Mezzo-Soprano Lucienne Bréval
Minor 1st Witch Soprano Espinasse
Minor 2nd Witch Mezzo-Soprano Suzanne Brohly
Minor 3rd Witch Contralto Marie Charbonnel
Minor Banquo Low Tenor Jean Laure
Minor Macduff Lyric Bass Félix Vieuille
Minor Servant Tenor Robert Pasquier
Minor Duncan Tenor Feodoroff
Minor Porter Baritone Jean Delvoye
Minor Lennox Low Tenor Raymond Gilles
Minor Malcolm Tenor François Mario
Minor Old man Bass Paul Payan
Minor Murderer bass Louis Azéma
Minor Lady Macduff Soprano Lucy Vauthrin
Minor Son of Macduff Mezzo-Soprano Germaine Carrière
Minor Third apparition Contralto Alive Raveau
Bit First apparition Bass Paul Guillamat
mute Fleance - Fayolle
mute Second Murderer -
mute Attendant -
mute Eight Kings in Macbeth's vision -
Chorus Lords, ladies, soldiers, peasants, ghosts. various


The story is essentially that of the Shakespeare play, with the five acts compressed to three. The opera contains seven tableaux, with the prelude comprising the first tableau, and each of the three acts containing two tableaux.


Complete recordings conducted by Alexander Rumpf and Friedemann Layer have been produced.[12]

A full recording of a performance in 1997 was issued in 1999 (Musicales Actes Sud OMA34100) with Jean-Philippe Lafont, Markella Hatziano, Jean-Philippe Marlière, Jacque Trussel, Christer Bladin, Philippe Georges, Marcel Vanaud, Sophie Fournier, Hanna Schaer, Ariane Stamboulides, Wojtek Smilek, Annie Varville, Franck Bard, Ferijs Millers, Andris Gailis; with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon; Choeur de la Radio lettone; Friedemann Layer, conductor[12]

A recording exists with Heinz Rehfuss as Macbeth and Lucienne Devallier as Lady Macbeth, with Ernest Ansermet conducting the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.[13]


  1. ^ Cohen, Alex, "Ernest Bloch's Macbeth" (April 1938). Music & Letters, 19 (2): pp. 143-148.
  2. ^ Brody, Elaine (January 1982). "Romain Rolland and Ernest Bloch" (PDF). The Musical Quarterly. 68 (1): 60–79. doi:10.1093/mq/lxviii.1.60. 
  3. ^ Gatti, Guido M.; Translated by Theodore Baker (January 1921). "Ernest Bloch" (PDF). The Musical Quarterly. VII (1): 20–38. doi:10.1093/mq/VII.1.20. 
  4. ^ Gatti, Guido M.; Translated by Theodore Baker (January 1926). "Two Macbeths: Verdi-Bloch" (PDF). The Musical Quarterly. XII (1): 22–31. doi:10.1093/mq/xii.1.22. Retrieved 22 April 2011. 
  5. ^ Chapman, Ernest, "Ernest Bloch at 75" (Spring 1955). Tempo (New Ser.), 35: pp. 6-9, 11-12.
  6. ^ Schonberg, Harold C. (11 May 1973). "Macbeth, Bloch's 1909 Opera, Has a Premiere Here". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ UCL News
  8. ^ Ginell, Richard S. (17 June 2013). "Review: Ernest Bloch's Macbeth a welcome treat by Long Beach Opera". The Los Angeles Times. 
  9. ^ von Rhein, John (14 September 2014). "OPERA REVIEW: Macbeth at the Harris Theater". The Chicago Tribune. 
  10. ^ Tommasini, Anthony (11 December 2014). "Dark and Deep Desires: Macbeth, Bloch's Only Opera, at Manhattan School of Music". The New York Times. 
  11. ^ Wolff S. Un demi-siècle d'Opéra-Comique. André Bonne, Paris, 1953.
  12. ^ a b Fregosi, William (2001). "Macbeth. Ernest Bloch". The Opera Quarterly. 17 (2): 340–342. doi:10.1093/oq/17.2.340. Retrieved 26 September 2007. 
  13. ^ World Cat : Macbeth scenes from the opera accessed 9 September 2015.

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