WONDERFUL MACDUFF AND WITCHES, RESOUNDING BUT UNEVEN SOUND
jfmaniaci | Broadbeach, Queensland, Australia | 04/29/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The opera Macbeth is a success or failure depending on the principals Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Macduff makes some contribution while Banquo's part ends halfway through. The witches play an important role, the chorus do to a minor extent. The orchestra needs to be resounding where needed without overpowering the "parola scenica" or scenic word which is paramount in the opera based on Shakespeare, the poet so much admired by Verdi. Macbeth is one of my favourite operas but, alas, certain aspects of this CD disappointed me. I feel the Mascherini/Callas/DeSabata CD is artistically superior despite the huffy sound of the orchestra (recorded in 1952).Milnes (Macbeth) is not suited to the crucial role. His baritone middle and upper registers are somewhat hollow, hence not dark and sinister enough to plot with his wife the king's assassination and usurp the throne. Cossotto (Lady Macbeth) fares a bit better but with many hysterics and a poor legato. She is no Souliotis, vocally the finest Lady Macbeth I ever heard. In the minor roles, Carreras (Macduff) and Raimondi (Banquo) sound admirable. I liked Carreras from the moment he made his appearance. "Orrore! Orrore! Orrore!" and "O figli miei" have dramatic and youthful vigour. Raimondi sings nobly and powerfully and yet the disdained announcement "E' morto assassinato il re Duncano" is finally drowned by the orchestra! I liked the witches, the most pleasant surprise of the pack. They sing as a well-rehearsed chorus, with much verve and clear diction, supported by vibrant orchestral sounds.I did not rave about the orchestra, energetically conducted by Muti in turbo-charged mode. Yes, the orchestra is spatially resounding but at times it drowns the singers, chorus, the lot, as if it were in a competitive mood. However, it executed the ballet music beautifully.The uneven registration is more concerning. The rustic music announcing the King's arrival and the apparition music are ever so tinny, the loud knocks on the castle door sound like cannons, the brandishing swords of Macduff and Macbeth cannot be heard, Lady Macbeth famous aria "La luce langue..." is almost inaudible, in seeing Banquo's ghost Macbeth "Di voi, chi cio' fece?" is drowned by the orchestra. I am not certain to what extent it was the balance engineer or the recording studio arrangement at fault. Having said that, I liked the soloists' pianissimo and the "rolling, relentless Act I finale", the most exciting choral music in all Verdian operas. In addition, I liked the vivid banquet scene, the exquisitely executed ballet music and the exiles'chorus lyrical and plaintive beat."
O Macbetto! Da Macduffo ti guarda prudente
L. E. Cantrell | Vancouver, British Columbia Canada | 02/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
Source: 1976 studio recording made in England.
Sound: Good analog stereo satisfactorily remastered into digital form.
Cast: Macbeth (Macbetto) - Sherrill Milnes; Lady Macbeth - Fiorenza Cosotto; Macduff (Macduffo) - Jose Carreras; Banquo (Banco) - Ruggero Raimondi; Malcolm - Giuliano Bernardi; Gentlewoman - Maria Borgato; Doctor - Carlo del Bosco; Servant - Leslie Fyson; Herald - Neilson Taylor; Assassin - John Noble; Apparitions - Christopher Keyte, Sara Grossman and Timothy Sprackling. Conductor: Riccardo Muti with the New Philharmonia Orchestra and the Ambrosian Chorus.
Format: This is the low-priced, no frills, two-disk re-issue of a recording originally set forth in a three-disk, full-price version with such bells and whistles as are typical of high priced CDs--plus three arias cut or altered by Verdi after his original production.
"Macbeth" was the first of Verdi's three completed Shakespearian operas. (A fourth, his long-contemplated but never executed "King Lear," is the greatest might-have-been in all of opera.) Its libretto is far and away the most faithful of the three to Shakespeare's original.
On a giorno non vidi mai so fair and foul, Macbetto and Banco encounter streghe (not just three, but a whole chorus of them.) They hail Macbetto di Glamis Sire and they prophesy that Macbetto shall be di Caudor Sire and king that shall be. Banco they hail not as a king but as father of kings.
All this Macbetto writes in a letter that is read by his wife. Together again, they plot the death of King Duncan, their guest at Glamis Castle. Before the deed, Macbetto sees a vision of a dagger before him. He kills Duncan, but is so unnerved that he brings (just) one gory dagger back with him. Lady Macbeth returns the dagger to the scene of the crime, staining herself with blood in the doing. They are shaken by a loud pounding at the door but they pull themselves together to join everyone in denouncing the murderers of the old king.
Macbetto becomes di Scozia Re and hardened in his crimes. Banco, father of future kings, presents a dynastic difficulty. Macbetto orders his death. The assassins return to report the end of Banco but the escape of his son. At a banquet Macbetto sees the ghost of Banco, much to the annoyance of Lady Macbeth and the dismay of the Scottish nobility.
Duncan's son, Malcolm, returns to Scotland to declare Macbetto a murderer and press his own claim to the throne. Macduffo joins him. Macbetto orders the death of Macduffo's wife and children. Macduffo, devastated, swears vengeance.
Lady Macbeth, in great agitation, sleepwalks. "Via," she says, "damned spot."
Malcolm and his army come to a wooded place. He orders his men to cut down branches and carry them before as they march to Dunsinane Castle.
Lady Macbeth dies. On hearing of it, Macbetto plumbs the depths of despair, calling life a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury che nulla dinota.
Told that a forest is on the move, Macbetto rouses himself into full defiance: blow wind, come wrack, he'll die with harness on his back! Macbetto battles untouched, for he may not be killed by any man who was born of a woman. He meets Macduffo who tells him that he was not born as most men are but strappato fui dal sen materno. Though la foresta Birnamo be come to Dunsinane and Macduffo is not of woman born, Macbetto fights on. In the end, Macduffo presents the slain body of the tyrant to King Malcolm.
As you can see, Verdi's hack librettists, Piave and Maffei, were infinitely more scrupulous than Boito was with either Otello or Falstaff. Even a rather lengthy ballet sequence can be justified from the original. The only significant characters omitted are the porter and that grim old Englishman, Earl Siward. (I do regret, though, that Banquo's son is never mentioned by name. I've always wondered how Italian tongues that could not wrap themselves around the name "Banquo" would deal with a thing like "Fleance.") Whatever weaknesses there are in the opera are attributable to the composer. This is an early work, still years before "Rigoletto." Verdi was still bound in Donnizettian forms and conventions, but already there was the strength and power that no other Italian master has ever matched.
This production is meticulously conceived and consistently conducted. The orchestra and the chorus are both excellent. The four principal singers, Milnes, Cossotto, Raimondi and Carreras are each of international stature and all are in very good voice. Everything sounds good. For all these reasons, I assign five stars.
That said, I must point out that there is in this performance a certain polish, glossiness and general restraint that does not jibe with the old, craggy tale of Scottish magic, murder and revenge. Rather than black-hearted villainy and grim blood-letting, we are presented with a weekend with the Macbeths (although one that admittedly ends rather poorly for them.) Everyone and everything is too well behaved. Milnes had a beautiful voice, no question of that, but I can't remember anybody accusing him of getting to the heart of any character. Cossotto and Raimondi offer undoubtedly impressive but oddly restrained singing, considering the unhinged qualities of their characters. Best of the bunch is the young Carreras in the supporting role of Macduff[o]. For once in his recording career he was free of the vocal tightness and the endless striving for volume that become so annoyingly consistent in his later work. If only he had kept on in the manner of this Macduff, he would actually have become the singer that his legion of fans wrongly imagine him to have been.
All in all, I put the blame for the shortcomings I find in this recording on Riccardo Muti (who would assuredly laugh my objections to scorn.) I think he was so busy listening to the music that he didn't hear the drama."
As Verdi Wanted
Viewer | 04/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This performance, as written in the attached booklet, follows Verdi's own words about how Macbeth should be interpreted.
Verdi focuses on Lady Macbeth, and she is the main reason to buy the set.
Fiorenza Cossotto suites perfectly the composer's description - her voice is strong and her vocal acting is superb (especially in the mad-scene).
Her coleratura is accurate, and she is in tune singing the supreme high notes which some of them acceeds the high C.
She was awarded the Gold record for her performance here!
Milnes' technique and vocal acting are fine enough to be put next to the great Cossotto.
Sometimes he even astonished me with his outbursts.
Raimondi is in strong voice as Banquo, and having Carreras as Macduff is a plus!
Mutti leads a fiery playing of the orchestra and Chorus."