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Giuseppe Verdi: Macbeth
Piero Cappuccilli (Macbeth), Shirley Verrett (Lady Macbeth), Nicolai Ghiaurov (Banquo), Stefania Malagù (Lady Macbeth’s lady-in-waiting), Plácido Domingo (Macduff), Antonio Savastano (Malcolm), Carlo Zardo (a doctor), Giovanni Foiani (Macbeth’s servant), Alfredo Mariotti (an assassin), Sergio Fontana (a herald), Alfredo Giacomotti, Maria Fausta Gallamini, Massimo Bortolotti (three apparitions), Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, Roman Gandolfi (chorus master), Claudio Abbado (conductor)
Recording: Centro Telecinematico-grafico Culturale, Milan, Italy (1976) – 153’20
Deutsche Grammophon 00289 483 5601 0 [2 CDs remastered from original recording and 1 blu-ray pure audio disc] – (Distributed by Universal Music) – Booklet in English, German and French

Those who have enjoyed the original recording of Macbeth back in 1976 will be enthusiastically rewarded by Deutsche Grammophon’s remastered release. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Winged by esteemed Claudio Abbado, this recording is based on the 1865 Paris version that includes the Ballo in Act III (totally apropos) along with the original production’s death of Macbeth on stage (strengthening the ending and giving the lead one last aria to sing: “Mal per me che m’affidai”) prior to the final chorus [ref: “Vittoria!”.] It works well.

Perched in a lofty nest of Verdian baritone rôles, Piero Cappuccilli takes to the sky and dives into a psychotic Shakespearian pathway that’s well deemed for Macbeth. Cappuccilli’s impressive tone is the stabilized platform which allows him to continually graduate toward cataclysm aided by a well-brewed prophetic outline and inside the cauldron of Roman Gandolfi’s La Scala chorus.

According Verdi requisites, Lady Macbeth’s voice must be ‘harsh’ and filled with ‘hollowness’ which is why Shirley Verrett is one the prime choices in singing this extremely difficult score. Shouldered with piercing iciness with occasional steely edges, Verrett carries the torch forward in arrogant defiance of the world around her. The crafting is flawless, and her power to subvert makes Lady Macbeth just as powerful (if not more) a figurehead as her husband.

Nicolai Ghiaurov’s mignon bass voice has a brilliant flow, exemplifying the purity and innocence of his Banquo. Not only does Plácido Domingo bring youthful charisma to Macduff, but his timbre has an ambitious sustenance for vigor and energy. Superlative.

We're reminded of Giuseppe Verdi’s exacting mandates for Macbeth. One of the reasons why the CD is so justifiably pristine is due to Claudio Abbado’s ability to massage vocal and orchestral instructions. The La Scala Orchestra has a meticulous sense of how and when M. Abbado changes his course. In particular, horns are flawlessly rich and lush with well-appropriated dynamics.

Deutsche Grammophon exercised the option to include a High Fidelity version, converting it into a Blu-ray pure audio disc. Those seeking an unfiltered Verdi sojourn will be rewarded by those sound-generated enhancements, but for this reviewer, the CD remastering has a better thumbprint. Highly recommended on all fronts!

Christie Grimstad




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