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Verdi: Macbeth / Simonetti, Keenlyside, Sherratt, Moore, Llewellyn, Simonetti

Verdi
Release Date: 04/29/2014 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 3180   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Gavin HorsleySimon KeenlysideBen JohnsonLatonia Moore,   ... 
Conductor:  Edward Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English National Opera Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Length: 2 Hours 39 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



VERDI Macbeth Edward Gardner, cond; Simon Keenlyside ( Macbeth ); Latonia Moore ( Lady Macbeth ); Gwyn Hughes Jones ( Macduff ); Ben Johnson ( Malcolm ); Brindley Sharratt ( Banquo ); Op in English Ch; English Natl Op O CHANDOS 3180 (2 CDs: 159: 36) Read more


My feelings about this release are many and complicated. It is the last in the long-running Opera in English series made and compiled by Chandos, as funding from the philanthropic Peter Moore’s Foundation ends this year. If nothing else this is a fine studio recording of Verdi’s Macbeth , well sung and conducted, and special praise goes to Chandos for shoehorning the whole work on to two discs with the ballet and both the 1847 and 1865 endings. If you want Verdi’s youthful masterpiece sung in English, there is no competition (and I doubt there will ever be). But are there many of us who still want Verdi in English? Did we ever?


I am surprised the series lasted as long as it did, to be honest. Studio sets of Italian opera in German ended in the late 1980s (with EMI-Electrola’s La bohème , I believe) and if people sneered that Verdi in German sounded like a grotesque Bavarian drinking song, then singing it in English only makes Joe Green sound like Gilbert and Sullivan. Whereas a theater can argue a case for producing opera in the vernacular (a sense of immediacy, or “relevance” and “inclusivity” if you want to sound like every marketing department), listening to opera in translation on CD only emphasizes two fallacies: The original sound the composer had in mind has gone and diction remains too murky to forgo the printed libretto. Diction is a contentious issue especially with regard to the English National Opera, whose remit was rendered pointless ever since it put in surtitles. In the singers’ defense, the crisp enunciation of the Golden Age was due to the drier acoustic of their former home at Sadler’s Wells. The airy Coliseum is a tough venue to project text, yet in the case of John Tomlinson, Lisa Milne, or even Lesley Garrett, not impossible. Some blame also has to go to the post-Julie Andrews fashion for favoring a smooth, creamy vocal line ahead of clear text. It is a problem that neither the Coliseum nor Chandos ever resolved.


My personal view is that the ties between Chandos and the ENO were not tight enough. The gems of this catalog (The Goodall Ring , Janet Baker’s Massenet and Handel) tend to be live from the theater or, like Richard Hickox’s fabulous Britten recordings, in the original language. What amazes me is how little of the English National Opera there is on DVD, especially when its reputation hangs more on provocative visuals rather than ultimate casts. A phenomenal show like Richard Jones’s technicolor Lulu would be highly desirable on DVD, yet again and again the Peter Moores Foundation thought it better to spend money and record the opera in the studio.


Although the studio sets wisely paired familiar stars with the younger ensemble names, there is a palpable feeling of redundancy when there is no production to link it to. The English National Opera still struggles (although it is currently having a terrific run of hits, be it accessible new opera from Julian Anderson or celebrity-led stagings such as Terry Gilliam’s Benvenuto Cellini ) and with the demise of this series, London’s second opera company has lost yet another media outlet. With its reputation as the youthful, funky alternative to Covent Garden, the English National Opera “Power House” years were at a time when a terrestrial TV station was prepared to broadcast these “sexy,” Postmodern stagings at prime time, so the idea of a corresponding opera set still made sense. I can’t help feeling sad, but times have changed, and Chandos would be better off producing DVDs from the Coliseum.


Anyway, enough of my polemic. How good is this new Macbeth ? With no corresponding audience who want a memory of what they saw, this new studio recording hangs on the star casting of Simon Keenlyside, a welcome but again slightly redundant choice given that you can hear and see his troubled psychopath (in the original Italian) on a fine DVD from Covent Garden conducted by Antonio Pappano. Good as he is here, I do think Keenlyside is best when seen and heard (I don’t say that about many singers) as he is one of opera’s few truly visceral actors. In the cold glare of the studio he gives us a carefully modulated reading, text aware and utterly precise, but just a little bland and unvaried. I do like his creepy chuckle when plotting Banquo’s demise, and such diligence and caution fits the weak and corruptible Thane. Although a bit small for Verdi, his sense of line is good, and he knows his vocal limits, although the tone is getting gritty when pushed.


Nevertheless, he is a good foil to Latonia Moore’s gleaming Lady Macbeth, a fine portrayal which is really worth getting excited about. There’s the she-devil steel to her voice, but she sings her runs cleanly and is equally fearless in the more soaring passages. Her sleepwalking scene, here taken much faster than usual, is especially chilling and fanatical. Only her diction under pressure is wanting, otherwise she holds her own against such luminaries as Fiorenza Cossotto and Shirley Verrett. The rest of the cast are generally fine. In the comfort of the studio Brindley Sharratt’s lightish bass makes enough impression as Banquo, with a very fine account of his aria and Gwyn Hughes Jones is an adequate Macduff. Comprimario roles are well taken, creating a tight, well dramatized ensemble. Having both endings really is a selling point, but I’m personally torn between which I prefer. Verdi’s reworked version has a much better battle but ends with that ludicrous, jaunty, “everything’s fine” chorus, and we lose Macbeth’s chilling final aria, here sung as “I have sinned.” Listeners will find themselves flitting between the two.


Edward Gardner gets superb work from his ENO forces. In the barn-like Coliseum, this young charismatic figurehead has failed to live up to his initial promise, as his readings have often been sluggish, if polished, so this urgent, propulsive account of Macbeth is a real surprise. His tempos go to both extremes, galloping through the jaunty choruses, or giving a deliciously creepy, lugubrious account of the overture, but he understands the overreaching arc of the opera. Ensembles are built up to thrillingly and there is no sense of a static studio run-through. There is good work too from the pickup chorus (The English National Opera chorus must have been busy elsewhere), full of young London-based names, great and good.


Recorded at the Blackheath Halls, the sound is full but cavernous. It lends the production a suitably empty feel for the bleak setting, but some orchestral detail is lost to the closely miked singers. Documentation is up to the usual, thorough standard of this series, with a typically fine essay from Mike Ashman. So, this is worth buying, if only to mark the end of an era. It is a very good performance with a standout Lady Macbeth, but ever so slightly redundant in an age of surtitles, live recording, and at a time when London’s opera in the vernacular struggles to show its face in this harsh multimedia world. It is hard not to feel sad when every new opera set on CD feels like a penultimate nail in the coffin, but this set announces two demises, and I’m not really talking about Verdi’s multiple endings.


FANFARE: Barnaby Rayfield
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Works on This Recording

1.
Macbeth by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Gavin Horsley (Bass), Simon Keenlyside (Baritone), Ben Johnson (Tenor),
Latonia Moore (Soprano), Brindley Sherratt (Bass), Gwynn Hughes Jones (Tenor),
Riccardo Simonetti (Bass Baritone)
Conductor:  Edward Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English National Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1847/1865; Italy 

Sound Samples

Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Prelude
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act I Scene 1, A Wood: Introduction - Welcome sisters, it is late (Chorus of Witches)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act I Scene 1, A Wood: Scene and Duet: Strange that this glorious day is drowned in darkness! (Macbeth, Banquo, Witches)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act I Scene 1, A Wood: Hail, Macbeth! Your great royal master (Messengers, Macbeth)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act I Scene 1, A Wood: A double prophecy comes to fruition (Macbeth, Banquo, Messenger)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act I Scene 1, A Wood: Stretta of the Introduction - Now they are leaving us! (Witches)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act I Scene 2, A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: Scene and Cavatina: 'I met them on the very day of my triumph ... (Lady Macbeth)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act I Scene 2, A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: Come! I'll inspire you to do the deed! (Lady Macbeth)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act I Scene 2, A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: His Royal Highness is coming here this evening (Servant, Lady Macbeth)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act I Scene 2, A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: Assist me, you spirits of carnage and corruption (Lady Macbeth)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act I Scene 2, A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: Scene and March: My noble lady! (Macbeth, Lady Macbeth)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act I Scene 2, A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: Rustic music, getting ever closer, announces the arrival of the King
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act I Scene 2, A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: Grand Scene and Duet: Go and inform my lady that she should tell me (Macbeth)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act I Scene 2, A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: You steal away from me, but still point (Macbeth)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act I Scene 2, A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: Now the whole world is sleeping (Lady Macbeth, Macbeth)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act I Scene 2, A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: Did you not hear it, a mournful sigh (Macbeth, Lady Macbeth)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act I Scene 2, A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: A voice spoke within me, unearthly and hollow (Macbeth, Lady Macbeth)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act I Scene 2, A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: Now make haste! Take back the dagger ... (Lady Macbeth, Macbeth)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act I Scene 2, A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: Scene and Sextet - Finale I: 'I must hurry; he bade me wake him early (Macduff, Banquo)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act I Scene 2, A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: Oh horror! Oh horror! Oh horror! (Macduff, Banquo, Lady Macbeth, Macbeth, Malcolm, Lady-in-Waiting, Servants)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act I Scene 2, A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: Hell is gaping in horror and terror (All)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act I Scene 2, A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: Hear our prayer, merciful father in Heaven (All)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act II Scene 1, A Room in Macbeth's Castle: Scene and Aria: Why do you spurn me ...? (Lady Macbeth, Macbeth)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act II Scene 1, A Room in Macbeth's Castle: Daylight is fading (Lady Macbeth)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act II Scene 2, A Park: Who told you to join us here? (Chorus)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act II Scene 2, A Park: Grand Scene: My son, be wary, be cautious! (Banquo)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act II Scene 2, A Park: Black is the night, as black as death (Banquo)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act II Scene 3, A Magnificent Hall: Finale II: Long live the King! (Chorus, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Lady-in-Waiting, Macduff)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act II Scene 3, A Magnificent Hall: Drinking Song: Come fill your glasses (Lady Macbeth, Lady-in-Waiting, Macduff, Chorus)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act II Scene 3, A Magnificent Hall: You have blood upon your face (Macbeth, Assassin)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act II Scene 3, A Magnificent Hall: You deserted us, my husband (Lady Macbeth, Macbeth, Lady-in-Waiting, Macduff, Chorus)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act II Scene 3, A Magnificent Hall: Come fill your glasses (Lady Macbeth, Lady-in-Waiting, Macduff, Chorus)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act II Scene 3, A Magnificent Hall: No! Leave me, you devil! (Macbeth, Lady-in-Waiting, Macduff, Chorus, Lady Macbeth)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act II Scene 3, A Magnificent Hall: Blood must flow ... The ghost demands it (Macbeth, Lady-in-Waiting, Chorus, Lady Macbeth, Macduff)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act III, A Dark Cave: Chorus of Introduction – Enchantment: Three times the tom-cat has yowled its cry of love (Witches)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act III, A Dark Cave: Ballet: I. -
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act III, A Dark Cave: Ballet: II. -
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act III, A Dark Cave: Ballet: III. -
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act III, A Dark Cave: Gran scena of the Apparitions: I will call them, but I dread what they may tell me (Macbeth, Witches)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act III, A Dark Cave: From the lowest and highest of regions (Witches, Macbeth, Apparitions)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act III, A Dark Cave: The Sound of Bagpipes - Distant music! What magic is this? (Macbeth, Witches)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act III, A Dark Cave: Come, all you sirens (Chorus of Witches)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act III, A Dark Cave: Scene and Duet: Finale III: Where am I? They've vanished ... (Macbeth, Herald, Lady Macbeth)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act III, A Dark Cave: Now is the hour of revenge and murder (Macbeth, Lady Macbeth)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act IV Scene 1, A Deserted Place on the Border Between Scotland and England: Land of torture! Land of terror! (Chorus of Scottish Refugees)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act IV Scene 1, A Deserted Place on the Border Between Scotland and England: Scene and Aria: O, my children, my darling children! (Macduff)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act IV Scene 1, A Deserted Place on the Border Between Scotland and England: Where was your loving father? (Macduff)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act IV Scene 1, A Deserted Place on the Border Between Scotland and England: What is this? What is this forest? (Malcolm, Soldiers, Macduff)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act IV Scene 2: A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: The Great Sleepwalking Scene: Introduction -
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act IV Scene 2: A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: Two nights we've watched and waited (Doctor, Lady-in-Waiting)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act IV Scene 2: A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: There's a stain here, and here's another! (Lady Macbeth, Doctor, Lady-in-Waiting)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act IV Scene 2: A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: Scene and Aria: Treachery! The English dare unite against me (Macbeth)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act IV Scene 2: A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: No love, no care, no compassion (Macbeth)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act IV Scene 2: A Hall in Macbeth's Castle: Scene and Battle: God in Heaven! (Women's Voices, Macbeth, Lady-in-Waiting, Macbeth's Soldiers)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act IV Scene 3: A Vast Plain: Battle: Throw down your branches and take your weapons! (Macduff, Soldiers, Macbeth, Women)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act IV Scene 3: A Vast Plain: Hymn of Victory - Finale IV: Victorious! (Chorus, Women, Malcolm, Macduff)
Macbeth (1865 version) (Sung in English): Act IV Scene 3: A Vast Plain: Macbeth, where is Macbeth ...? (Chorus of Bards, Soldiers, Women, Macduff, Malcolm)
Macbeth (1847 version) (Sung in English): Act IV: God in Heaven! (Women's Voices, Macbeth, Lady-in-Waiting)
Macbeth (1847 version) (Sung in English): Act IV: Ah! Come quickly! (Macbeth Soldier's, Macbeth) - We're ready! (Macbeth Soldier's, Malcolm, Macduff, Macbeth)
Macbeth (1847 version) (Sung in English): Act IV: Final Scene: Victorious! ... Where is the villain ...? (Malcolm, Macduff) - I have sinne (Macbeth, Macduff, Malcolm, Chorus)

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