(1909) Macbeth

Instrumentation:  Lyric Drama After Shakespeare in 9 Scenes (Prologue and Three Acts); opera; (French text by Edmond Fleg; Italian translation by Maria Tibaldi-Chiesa; English adaptation by Ernest Bloch and Alex Cohen); orchestra and chamber orchestra; solo voice(s) and piano-vocal score in English; also Interludes, 1938.

Movements:

Date of Composition: June 1904 - September 1909

Place of Composition: Geneva-Paris

Publisher: Edizioni Suvini Zerboni

Duration Minutes: 142.5 (Printed insert in CD)

 

Interesting Reading related to Macbeth

Jewish Music Institute

Suppressed Music


AVAILABLE RECORDINGS

Ernest Bloch: Macbeth

Arkiv.com

The following is from Suzanne Bloch's "ERNEST BLOCH: Creative Spirit" "A PROGRAM SOURCE BOOK"  Prepared By Suzanne Bloch In Collaboration With Irene Heskes, JEWISH MUSIC COUNCIL of the NATIONAL JEWISH WELFARE BOARD, 1976.  These two items appear on pages 42 and 43, the first is on pages 42 and 43, the latter is on page 43.

"MACBETH: OPERA
Lyric Drama After Shakespeare
9 Scenes (Prologue and 3 Acts)
(1904-09)

Ernest Bloch was twenty-four years old when he began to sketch the music of his opera, Macbeth.  He has two symphonic works and four songs to his name. For months he and his friend, the poet Edmond Fleg, had been trying out all sorts of ideas for lyrical theater on which to collaborate. On June 26, 1904, Bloch wrote that he was not too interested in the idea of Macbeth, that what he really wanted to write was a work of "great gaiety."

In the following six months he changed his mind, for the next mention of Macbeth is on December 7, when he began to sketch the music of the Prologue, and on the 27th he writes that he has finished sketching the first Tableau, "certainly not material of great gaiety!"

For five years he worked on the opera, when he was not involved in his parents' business in Geneva, raising a family, giving lectures at the University of Lausanne, and conducting concerts there and in Neuchatel. It is hard to imagine how he could keep the continuity of such an opera with the sort of life he led, but Macbeth was the thread that held him together.

His conception of the music was to express the inner ferments of the characters, more important to him than the actual external drama. With little encouragement from his countrymen, with no financial subsidy, he was stirred by an immense inner force. He exulted, he despaired, he slashed, he rewrote. He once wrote Fleg that he didn't like the music for Duncan's arrival, that it made Duncan sound too much like a "civil employee."

In 1907, when the music was almost all composed, Bloch had a chance to play it at a salon at the home of the son of George Bizet. Among the persons who heard it were the famous singer, Lucienne Breval, and critic Pierre Lalo. Both were enthused and arranged an interview for Bloch and Fleg with Albert Carre, director of the Paris Opera Comique. Carre at once signed up for the rights of performance of Macbeth within two years, an unheard of thing in Paris, to bring out the work of two young unknowns who were not even French.

In September 1909, Bloch finished the opera, copying the orchestral score himself, a tremendous job of several hundred pages; and on November 30, 1910, in Paris, after all sorts of upheavals and intrigues which Bloch reacted to dramatically in contrast with Fleg's calm and serene irony. Macbeth had its first performance. There were thirteen performances in all, which met with mixed reactions -- either tremendous admirations or complete dislike.

Bloch cherished a letter from a young woman musician, telling of her appreciation to Bloch and signed Nadia Boulanger [later to be an inspiration to Bloch's daughter, Suzanne, as her teacher of composition in Paris and life-long friend]. At the same time, Gabriel Faure, Boulanger's teacher, wrote that he was impressed by the opera but disturbed by the violence, the "laideurs" in the work. He felt that even though there was ugliness in the drama the music shouldn't necessarily express it. Piere Lalo wrote in praise of the work. Romain Rolland and others felt their faith in the young composer had been justified.


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TWO SYMPHONIC INTERLUDES (Acts 1 and 2)
From the Lyric Drama "MACBETH"
(1904-09)

(Libretto after Shakespeare by Edmond Fleg)

The opera Macbeth had its premiere in 1910 at the Paris Opera Comique.  After sixteen performances it lay unperformed for twenty-eight years. In 1938 it was revived at Teatro San Carlo in Naples where due to the anti-semitic edict by Mussolini the performances were halted. It again saw the light of day, with an Italian translation by Mary Tibaldi Chiesa, 1953 in Rome and then 1957 [See NOTE 1 below] in Trieste. There followed performances in Brussels in 1958 sponsored by Queen Mother Elizabeth, and the following year after Bloch's death, at La Scala in Milan.

In the United States, the Opera Workshop of the University of California at Berkeley performed the work in 1960 [See NOTE 2 below]. Bloch's native city of Geneva then presented the work for five performances in 1968, and the United States took over with Baylor University's five performances in 1970. Juilliard School of Music in New York City presented it three times in 1973. A concert performance of the opera was planned for 1975-76 in London, and to be broadcast over Europe by the British Broadcasting Company. [See NOTE 3 below.]

In 1938, at the publisher's request, Bloch extracted from the full score the two Interludes, which had served as transitions between scenes one and two of the first act and between the first and second (final) scene of the last act. This music has been presented in concert form.

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NOTE 1: According to David Z. Kushner, The Ernest Bloch Companion, 2002, pp. 145-7 - There was a presentation in Cleveland at the Karamu House, March 19-April 13, 1957, "a truncated version in which the choral scenes were omitted, and a piano score . . . replaced the orchestra."

NOTE 2: According to David Z. Kushner, The Ernest Bloch Companion, 2002, pp. 145-7 - "The production by the Opera Workshop at the University of California at Berkeley on March 31, April 1, and April 2, 1960 under the direction of Jan Popper claims credit for being the American premiere of the complete work."

NOTE 3: The University College Opera (of University College London) performed the English language premiere of Macbeth in the UK in March 2009.

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Long Beach Opera revives "Macbeth," June 15, 22, 23, 2013.  Long Beach Opera Artistic and General Director Andreas Mitisek, also the head of Chicago Opera Theater, will bring the production to the Harris Theater in downtown Chicago, September 13-21, 2014.

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110 years production history:

 

• December 1903: Decides he is going to create an opera Macbeth; Fleg will write the libretto.

• June 26, 1904: Wrote that he wanted to write a work of "great gaiety." – Suzanne Bloch

• December 7, 1904: Mentions sketching the music of the Prologue.

• December 27, 1904: Finished sketching first Tableau, "certainly not material of great gaiety!"

• April 1905:  Third scene of Macbeth completed.

• January 1907:  Produces and copies first act of Macbeth.

• June 1907: Plays music at home of George Bizet’s son.  Among those who heard it were famous singer, Lucienne Breval, and critic, Pierre Lalo. Both were enthused and arranged an interview for Bloch and Fleg with Albert Carre, director of the Paris Opera Comique. Performs Macbeth for Albert Carre, who at once signed up for the rights of performance of Macbeth within two years, an unheard of thing in Paris, to bring out the work of two young unknowns who were not even French.

• November 21, 1907:  Puts on recital at home of director of the Opéra-Comique, Albert Carré.

• January 5 1909:  Birth of his third child named Lucienne, in honor of Lucienne Bréval.  Tensions with Albert Carré  who doesn't want her for the role of Lady Macbeth.  But Edmond Fleg and Bloch stand up to him.  Macbeth won't be produced without Lucienne Bréval.

• Mid-March 1909:  Finishes singing-piano version after five years.

• June 25 1909:  Plays Macbeth before director of Metropolitan Opera of New York, Gatti-Casazza, who is enthused by it.  Gabriel Astruc signs contract publishing  Macbeth, but will only publish the voice-piano version.

• August 31 1909: Finishes Macbeth.  Orchestral version will never be published.

In September 1909: Bloch finished the opera, copying the orchestral score himself, a tremendous job of several hundred pages.

• April 1910:  Albert Carré finally accepts that Lucienne Bréval will interpret Macbeth.

September – November 1910: Three months of rehearsals for Macbeth in which he participates with the orchestra conductor, Francois Ruhlmann.

• November 30 1910: Premiere Production of Macbeth at Paris Opéra-Comique. Large majority of critics are hostile. 

• November 1910: Paris, after all sorts of upheavals and intrigues which Bloch reacted to dramatically in contrast with Fleg's calm and serene irony, Macbeth had its first performance. There were thirteen performances in all, which met with mixed reactions -- either tremendous admirations or complete dislike.

• December (late): Discouraged, he returns to Geneva “to lick [his] wounds.”

• January 1911:  Macbeth is over in full success because Lucienne Bréval breaks her contract.  Back in Geneva for a change of pace he works on the score of Siegfried:  That's what lifts you up and transports you from petty considerations!

• June 17 and 21 1911:  Another production of Macbeth at the Opéra-Comique of Paris; it's the last showing in France. There is more life, justice, togetherness than at the beginning. 

• March 5, 1938: Production of Macbeth in the Theater San Carlo of Naples in Italian, where due to the anti-semitic edict by Mussolini, the performances were halted.

• 1938: At publisher's request, Bloch extracts two Interludes from the full score, which had served as transitions between scenes one and two of the first act and between the first and second (final) scene of the last act. This music has been presented in concert form.

• 1953 – Rome:  Italian translation by Mary Tibaldi Chiesa.

• 1957 – Trieste: Mary Tibaldi Chiesa translation.

• March 19-April 13, 1957: Cleveland: Karamu House - "a truncated version in which the choral scenes were omitted, and a piano score . . . replaced the orchestra."

• November 9, 1957: November 9 in Brussels at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie. Receives very enthusiastic cable from Queen Elizabeth of Belgium.

• 1958: Brussels: Sponsored by Queen Mother Elizabeth, and the following year after Bloch's death, at La Scala in Milan.

• March 31, April 1-2, 1960: Opera Workshop of the University of California at Berkeley - under the direction of Jan Popper claims credit for being the American premiere of the complete work.

• 1968: Bloch's native city of Geneva presented the work for five performances

• 1970: Baylor University's five performances

• 1973: Juilliard School of Music in New York City presented it three times. Directed by John Houseman.

• 1975-76: Concert performance of opera was planned for 1975-76 in London, and to be broadcast over Europe by the British Broadcasting Company.  Suzanne Bloch

• March 2009: The University College Opera (of University College London) performed the English language premiere of Macbeth in the UK.

• June 15, 22, 23, 2013: Long Beach Opera revives "Macbeth," under Long Beach Opera Artistic and General Director Andreas Mitisek,

• September 13-21, 2014:  Chicago Opera Theater, Harris Theater

 

·       This material is based in large part on sections found throughout the four volume work by Joseph Lewinski, "Ernest Bloch: Sa vie et sa pensée."  We are grateful to Dr. Lewinski for permission to extract this information for use here. We are especially grateful to Anne Hendrickson for translating these sections from the French. And, to Alain Hirsch, Mr. Bloch’s nephew, for helping us translate more difficult words, expressions and passages. This material can be reviewed at the “Biographical” tab on the website: www.ErnestBloch.org.

 

·       We have also referenced material from Suzanne Bloch’s 1976 Resource Book: Creative Spirit. She has written two pieces about Macbeth.  This material can be reviewed at the “Compositions” tab on the website: www.ErnestBloch.org, under Macbeth in the 1900-1909 section.

 



 


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