Like other great opera composers, Giuseppe Verdi saw a great deal of dramatic potential in the plays of William Shakespeare.
He set three of the Bard’s plays as operas during his long and celebrated career. While his last two operas, Otello and Falstaff, are masterpieces of their own, Verdi composed his first Shakespearean opera, Macbeth, way back in 1847.
It’s interesting to note that Verdi didn’t see a production of the original play until after the first performance of his operatic version! Macbeth follows fairly closely to the original play with some differences, most notably a chorus of witches who sing in three part harmony compared to three individual witches.
The ballet music you’ve just heard is from Act III of Verdi’s opera, in which the witches dance as they cast spells and curses over their boiling cauldron.