Giuseppe Verdi: Macbeth

Verdi Edition

Edited by David Lawton (2006)

Three-volume set: two volumes score pp. XCIV, 929 + critical commentary
NR 138710
Piano vocal score available
CP 138713

Full score with French text (revised by Candida Mantica, 2020)
NR 142102

The critical edition of Macbeth is the first printed edition of the score that gathers together in a single unified publication both versions of the opera (the first version: Florence 1847; and the second version: Paris 1865). The existing editions, in fact, almost always provide the Paris version of 1865, overlooking the original 1847 version. The main text of the critical edition furnishes the 1865 Paris version; Appendix 2 instead provides all those sections (entire numbers or portions of numbers) composed in 1847 in view of the premiere of the opera in Florence and later modified or eliminated by Verdi in view of the revision of 1865.

Verdi himself had a special fondness for this opera, and the original version is arguably the most important work of his formative years. When he revised Macbeth in 1865, originally with the intention of adding a ballet for a production at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris, he rewrote far more of the opera than he had first planned. The Paris premiere of the revised version (in which Verdi did not take part) was not a success, however. In Italy, the original version continued to be preferred throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century. During the twentieth century the revised version has largely eclipsed the earlier one, although many modern productions interpolate Macbeth’s death scene from the 1847 score.

Ricordi prepared two different editions of the full score of the revised version (in 1928 and 1944), but neither one was ever offered for sale, circulating as rental material for theaters. There are numerous discrepancies among them and the piano vocal score. Although the editors of the full scores probably consulted the autograph full score of the 1847 version housed at the Ricordi archives in Milan, they certainly did not review the autograph manuscripts for the pieces revised in 1865, at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. Indeed, the orchestral scores often bear a closer relationship to early editions of the piano-vocal score than they do to the autograph.

In the critical edition the verbal text is drawn principally from the autograph scores of Verdi. When these sources are incomplete or patently erroneous, the edition relies on the printed libretti published on the occasion of the first production in Florence (for the parts that are common to the two versions) and on a ‘generic’ libretto published by Ricordi in 1865. The only exception to this criterion is tied to the modifications effected by Andrea Maffei to the original text by Francesco Maria Piave, modifications introduced after Verdi had almost completely finished composing the Florentine version. There are numerous testimonies to the effect that Verdi accepted these changes, not least the fact that they were integrated into the poetic text used in 1865 for the Paris version. The source for identifying Maffei’s interventions is a manuscript libretto of the opera held today in the Livia Simoni library at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, in which there are also some annotations by Verdi himself. In all likelihood this was the text used by Verdi during the compositional phase of the 1847 version.

Lastly, in 2020, Candida Mantica worked on the restoration of the French lyrics by Charles Louis Étienne Nuittier and Alexandre Beaumont, recovering the language in which Macbeth was performed on April 21, 1865 at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris. After that, the French version was basically abandoned in favor of the Italian translation, which premiered at La Scala in the fall of 1865.