22 Oct 2009

The Macbeth Curse

by Crystal Young-Otterstrom

All great stories come with an accompanying curse. The Macbeth curse is probably the most famous of all superstition curses surrounding a narrative, which makes it 100% more awesome. According to legend, saying the word “Macbeth” inside a theatre causes Disaster with a capital D. Everything from death on stage to the presenting theatre going out of business to forgotten lines could happen. Indeed (according to legend), at the premiere, an actor died on stage because a real dagger was accidentally used instead of the prop knife. Hopefully that props master was fired! Why these horrific results, you may ask? Explanations include claims that 1) authentic spells are cast on stage by the witches and that Shakespeare stole the lines from actual covens who thereafter cursed the play (lesson: never plagiarize, especially from witches), 2) the original props master stole an authentic cauldron from a coven and they then cursed the play (of course it was the same props master who was the source of the real dagger incident…), and 3) it has even been postulated that Shakespeare cursed the play himself so that he would be the only person ever able to direct it. How kind of him to consider posterity. Regardless of the original source, it has clothed the work in a shroud of mystery.

To avoid saying the name of the play, you can refer to the opera and/or play as “The Scottish Play,” “Mackers,” “Macdiddy,” or “MacBee.”  If you mistakenly uttered the Cursed Word inside the theatre before you read this blog, never fear! There are two cleansing rituals: A) Turn three times, spit over your left shoulder, swear (yes, we give you permission), and/or recite a line from another Shakespeare play (“Angels and ministers of grace defend us” from Hamlet I.iv is most popular, but if that doesn’t come immediately to mind, at least everyone knows, “to be or not to be”). B) Leave the theatre, spin around while brushing yourself off, and say “Macbeth” three times. How either of those actually cleanse the theatre is rather beyond rational thought but at least it should make for some great entertainment tonight! Despite whether or not you believe in the curse, even we at Utah Opera have experienced our share of oddities during this production!

  1. Utah Opera originally intended to do a new set build for this production, but the details couldn’t get worked out.
  2. The original conductor unfortunately had to cancel in August.
  3. A family member of one of the cast passed away just days before rehearsals began and as a result that cast member missed the first few days of rehearsal.
  4. A super actually passed away at the beginning of the rehearsal process.
  5. There have been abundant health issues (including the current conductor having to miss almost a week of rehearsal).
  6. A chorus member with a hand prosthetic accidentally poked herself in the eye causing some damage.