Adaptation Studies, Convention, Vocal Production and Embodied Meaning in Verdi’s Macbeth: Rehabilitating the Brindisi, or, Lady Macbeth Unsexes Herself
"In this article, I suggest that focussing on the interplay of convention and reception might be one way in which adaptation studies could contribute something new to the understanding of Shakespearean operatic adaptation. My focus here is on several dimensions of the brindisi led by Lady Macbeth in the banquet scene in the Act Two finale of Verdi's Macbeth, after Macbeth has had Banquo murdered, and the relationship of that number to her invocation of the spirits and her sleepwalking scene.2 As the brindisi, on the face of it, does little to advance plot or establish character in either its music or its lyrics, and is neither melodically nor harmonically innovative, it has only received cursory attention. I use this scene to explore how taking into account aspects of convention and reception usually omitted from Anglophone adaptation studies might challenge assumptions about two ways in which Verdi's opera appears to differ from Shakespeare's play: the lack of an equivalent to Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth's command to 'Unsex me here' in her invocation of the spirits; and the apparent lack of preparation in the opera for Lady Macbeth's transformation from her self-assurance at the beginning of the opera to her disintegration in her sleepwalking scene. By taking into account operatic conventions of the place and period, the potential is revealed for a number that has been regarded as 'perfunctory', one that 'just barely passes muster' (Riggs 189), to be understood as Verdi's clear presentation of a turning point in the development of the operatic Lady Macbeth's character."
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Cite as: Severn, John R.. ‘Adaptation Studies, Convention, Vocal Production and Embodied Meaning in Verdi’s Macbeth: Rehabilitating the Brindisi, or, Lady Macbeth Unsexes Herself.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 29, no. 1-2, 2014, doi: 10.20314/als.8de43e1595.