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By Giuseppe Verdi

VIDEO: Renato Bruson, Mara Zampieri, Sinopoli conducting [Italian; English subtitles; Deutsche Oper, Berlin, 1987] HOM MAC 030 PIO 25923 (LO)

AUDIO: A) DG: Piero Cappuccilli, Shirley Verrett, Abbado conducting; this 1976 studio recording is the musician's Macbetto; neither of the two principals are as innately terrifying as a Callas or a Taddei, but Abbado gets real music from the two of them and there is genuine feeling throughout; one is grateful for Verrett's accurate and expressive coloratura, almost on a par with Callas; in fine stereo [G.R.]

B) RCA: Leonard Warren, Leonie Rysanek, Leinsdorf conducting; Studio recording from 1959 based on a famous revival at the Metropolitan; make no mistake, this is the Voice recording; it is hard to imagine any two sounds more opulent in these roles than Warren's or Rysanek's, and Rysanek gets extra bonus points for being just as dramatically involved as the other Ladies in this list; true, neither partner may be impeccable musically and Rysanek has some hard sledding in the low-lying passages that are the chief reasons why so many mezzos have been given this role, but it's wonderfully hard to see how Scotland has a chance against two such larger-than-life predators; stereo [G.R.]

C) LEGATO: Sherrill Milnes, Christa Ludwig, Boehm conducting; two distinctive vocal personalities characterized more by visceral thrust than idiomatic style; once a favorite of mine, always compelling; Ludwig's rare combination of musicianship, true drama, and vocal opulence is especially welcome ("live" 1970) [G.R.]

D) GALA(?): Giuseppe Taddei, Leyla Gencer, Gui conducting; Live recording from 1960; a thoroughly attuned partnership of the kind that Callas really deserved under De Sabata in E; Gencer is in fine form, though Taddei's clearly sumptuous, healthy voice shows contradictory traces of a tremolo, offset by a wealth of spellbinding colors and the most completely Shakespearean interpretation from any baritone [G.R.]

E) [various labels]: Enzo Mascherini, Maria Callas, De Sabata conducting; a live broadcast from 1952, La Scala; the potent combo of De Sabata and a wonderfully agile Callas in her prime is unique, yielding stylistic, dramatic, vocal and musical treasures; unfortunately, Callas's baritone partner, Mascherini, has all the imagination of a pet rock; fair mono [G.R.]


For Further Reading:

The Operas of Verdi : From Oberto to Rigoletto (Vol. 1, Revised), by Julian Budden

Macbeth (Opera Guide, No 41), by Giuseppe Verdi

Encounters with Verdi, by Marcello Conati, Richard Stokes, Julian Budden

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