He Who Must Not Be Named

Plácido Domingo as the title character in Macbeth (2015) in Valencia, Spain; Photo: Tato Baeza

Plácido Domingo as the title character in Macbeth (2015) in Valencia, Spain; Photo: Tato Baeza

He Who Must Not Be Named…No, this isn’t a Harry Potter story.

With just over a week from opening night at LA Opera, we’re counting down. Everyone’s excited about the new production, starring Plácido Domingo, conducted by James Conlon, and directed by Darko Trejsnak. But there’s one thing you probably won’t hear if you’re at the theater…its name.

Why? We asked around and got concerned whispers. It seems there’s history here. The History Channel explains that as long as the tale of the Scottish King has been staged, use of its name has been avoided by thespians, artists, the crew and pretty much anyone in the theater. Listverse.com cites this odd behavior among one of the most noteworthy theater superstitions.

Many disagree as to the roots of the superstition (the use of real witch craft, accidents in its earliest stagings, even marketing turned urban legend). But most agree that it’s only safe to utter the name during rehearsals or the performance.

So let’s not tempt fate, shall we. If you’re reading this article out loud while at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, here are just a few options for you to reverse the damage you may have done.

Quickly run outside and then: 

  • Spit and curse while spinning around three times
  • Have a Shakespeare passage from another play ready, you’ll need to recite it – Stat! Here’s one to have in your back pocket: “Angels and ministers of grace defend us!” (Hamlet)
  • Repeat the name (of this opera we’ll open on September 17) three times while tapping your shoulder. (Wait, isn’t that Beetlejuice?)
  • Brush yourself off and run around the theater counterclockwise.

You’ll need to ask – some say beg – to be let back into the theater.

Some of these may sound like they’ve been made up just so we can see what you’ll do. Our favorite, then, would be to pick up a ticket while you’re out there and tell a friend to come see the Bard’s play.

In the meantime, help us out with some euphemisms we can use in the coming weeks

To purchase tickets to Macbeth…wait, shoot…I have to run.

To learn more about and to purchase tickets to the opera that must not be named, click here.

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One Response to He Who Must Not Be Named

  1. Norma Boschetti Barton says:

    It is actually referred to as The Scottish Play!

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