Sherrill Milnes, Christa Ludwig, Carlo Cossutta, Karl Ridderbusch, et al., vocal soloists/Karl Böhm, conductor
Another long-neglected masterpiece, Macbeth is today one of Verdi’s most popular operas following successful revivals in recent years like this dramatic 1970 performance.With a cast like this, and Böhm conducting, it couldn’t lose. Sherrill Milnes, the great American baritone of his era, is in glorious voice here and turns in a magnificent portrayal of the tormented hero. Soprano Christa Ludwig, known better for Lieder and German opera, is perhaps the biggest surprise here, in one of the most thrilling and dramatic portrayals of Lady Macbeth since Maria Callas. The conducting of Karl Böhm also comes in for special praise, as one of the tightest and most dramatic readings ever caught on record. Macbeth was Verdi’s favorite of all his early operas, as evidenced by the great care he took with it even many years after its premiere. The first performance took place on March 14, 1847 and was warmly applauded. Years later, however, Verdi heavily revised and even partly recomposed Macbeth, and this version, first given in Paris at the Théâtre Lyrique on April 19, 1865, is the one always heard today.
“Macbeth has been well presented on discs, but this performance…should be held in the greatest esteem and surpasses the others in overall intensity and theatricality…Böhm’s orchestra catches the opera’s brooding dark tone ideally. Christa Ludwig is in radiant voice, singing with such charisma that she is practically visible…[Sherril Milnes’s] warm resonant voice, with its remarkable, secure upper extension is simply glorious, and he truly gets under the skin of this complex character…” — ROBERT LEVINE
Ilustration © Rafal Olbinski,
Courtesy of Patinae Inc.