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CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Macbeth - opera in four acts (1865 revision)
Macbeth - Leo Nucci (baritone); Lady Macbeth - Shirley Verrett (mezzo); Banquo - Samuel Ramey (bass); Macduff - Veriano Luchetti (tenor); Malcolm - Antonio Barasorda (tenor); Doctor - Sergio Fontana (bass); Lady Macbeth’s attendant - Anna Caterina Antonacci (soprano)
Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Communale, Bologna/Riccardo Chailly
rec. Chiesa di San Giorgio, Bologna, April and May 1986
DECCA 478 3470 [63.31 + 73.19]

Experience Classicsonline

Verdi and his wife Giuseppina went, as usual, to the more temperate climes of Genoa for the winter of 1863-1864. Whilst there Verdi was visited by his Paris representative, Léon Escudier, who informed him that the Théâtre Lyrique had enquired if the composer would write some ballet music. This was for insertion into Macbeth, his tenth opera of 1847, for performance at the theatre. Later, when a formal approach was made, Verdi’s response was more than Escudier could have hoped for, indicating that the composer wished to undertake a radical revision of the opera he had written eighteen years before. Verdi’s proposals for the revised Macbeth included new arias for Lady Macbeth in act 2 with the conventional two verse Triofonai securo being replaced by La Luce langue (CD 1 Tr. 9), its chromaticism in his later style. He also made substantial alterations to act 3 including ora di morte, a duet for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (CD2 Tr.5) as well as an additional Ballet, de rigueur for Paris, not included in this recording. In act four, Verdi re-wrote the opening chorus Patria oppressa (CD 2 Tr.6) and added the thrilling battle scene. He also replaced Macbeth's death scene with the finale inno de Victoria (CD 3 Tr.10) where Macduff reports killing Macbeth to cause great rejoicing.
This reissue of a recording made in association with a French film enters a very competitive mid-price market dominated by double CD re-issues conducted by Abbado and Muti. Abbado’s recording followed a widely acclaimed 1975 La Scala production by Giorgio Strehler. His conducting is particularly idiomatic and vibrant and sets a theatrical benchmark for his soloists. As the queen, Shirley Verrett is smoky-toned and musically correct, perhaps lacking a little of the vocal wildness that Verdi had in mind and specified for the role. Cappuccilli as Macbeth is characterful and expressive with a wide palette of tonal colour, just the odd moment of dry tone intruding. Ghiaurov’s bass as Banquo is a rock-solid tower of strength whilst Domingo as Macduff sings an eloquent lament for his lost family in a vocally commanding performance (DG Originals 449 732-2). Muti’s recording was made in London the following July with the Ambrosian Opera Chorus being altogether more vibrant and involved than their La Scala rivals. The strength of this performance is the superbly characterised singing of Fiorenza Cossotto as a very Italianate queen of idiomatic inflection and power. Whilst Sherrill Milnes as Macbeth lacks a little Italianata, particularly compared with Cappuccilli, his portrayal is full-voiced and well characterised with many felicitous vocal details (EMI Classics 5 67128 2).
Whilst Chailly’s conducting, the Italian squilla of the Bologna singers, far superior to their La Scala rivals, and Decca’s excellent digital recording are plus points, there are few others over the above rivals. The wiry tone of Leo Nucci lacks the tonal variety of colour of Cappuccilli for Abbado and whilst his diction is good his characterisation is bland. Shirley Verrett is well past her best with frequent resort to chest tone and weakness at the top of her voice. Veriano Luchetti sings strongly but without the tonal beauty that he evinces on earlier recordings. Samuel Ramey sings with sonority and refulgent tone and good characterisation. Pitted against the likes of Ghiaurov and Raimondi on the rival sets, his contribution and the quality of the conducting and recording are not sufficient to sway the decision in favour of this reissue.
The CDs come with a detailed cast list and track contents and timings as well as a track-related synopsis in English, French and German. Use the CD in your computer and go to to access the libretto and English translation in addition to free bonus material. The libretto is suitable for mobile devices and printable PDF download.
Robert J. Farr



























































































































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