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Notes and Editorial Reviews
"This is a spectacular Macbeth, unquestionably the best I've ever heard. As Lady Macbeth, Christa Ludwig offers an unrivaled combination of presence, intellect, and vocal security; she's nothing short of astonishing, staking her claim to this territory from her opening recit, up to a solid high C—not to mention her knock-out, interpolated Db at the end of act I. Yes, she fudges a trill or three, and she'll occasionally alter Verdi's text underlay, or not precisely follow his markings. Nor does she take the high Db at the end of the Sleepwalking Scene—a slight disappointment, I must admit. But ultimately, who cares? She brings this multifaceted character to life with overwhelming cumulative effect, coloring each scene differently,
whether conveying Lady Macbeth's power-lust, goading or chiding her husband, lightening her voice invitingly for the second-act Brindisi, or eerily projecting the character's mental collapse at the end. One strikingly representative touch comes in act III, as Macbeth tells her about the apparitions: three times she responds with the word “Segui“ (“Go on!“), building an overwhelming sense of urgency and tension even within that very short span.
Milnes, too, is in spectacular voice, up to the interpolated Ab of his act IV soliloquy. And while he may not quite match Ludwig in moment-to-moment interpretive nuance, his every scene is thoroughly considered, with no less success in establishing and building his character. The two of them feed off of each other and interact brilliantly. The news of Lady's death really does send this Macbeth over the edge; his psychological disintegration is no less palpable than hers.
I don't think I've ever heard Karl Ridderbusch in Italian repertoire before; he's a superb Banquo. His announcement of Duncan's murder is earthshaking, a tremendously powerful introduction to the climactic first-act ensemble. Of course the effect of that moment derives also from the masterly, tension-filled direction of Karl Böhm, who conducted Macbeth as early as 1943, as part of a Verdi celebration he organized at the Vienna State Opera. In Böhm's hands, the ensembles and choruses rightfully prove every bit as significant as the rest. At the beginning of act IV, for example, “Patria oppressa“ so powerfully conveys the cumulative impact of the horrors unleashed by the Macbeths that Lady's mental collapse seems not just plausible, but inevitable—so inevitable, in fact, that Macduff's aria, however suitably sung, comes as an intrusion. For some reason, the orchestral Prelude to the opera is omitted; I can't say whether Böhm actually cut it, or whether it's just missing from the source tape. More significant, unfortunately, is the omission of the opera's
closing chorus. As is often customary, Böhm includes Macbeth's death scene, which Verdi wisely replaced with a closing chorus when he revised his original 1847 score for Paris in 1865; aside from the death scene's needlessly remorseful sentiment, it also brings the chain of events to a grinding halt. But where most conductors employ the final chorus as well, Böhm retains the 1847 ending: a quick cry hailing Malcolm as king and the curtain falls. It's anticlimactic to say the least—the only truly unfortunate blot on an otherwise splendid performance."
-- Marc Mandel, Fanfare [11/1990]
Reviewing earlier release of this recording, Foyer 2027
"The Macbeth features Sherrill Milnes at his 1970 best. His coconspirator, Christa Ludwig, is in astonishing voice—one doesn’t expect a so-called “mezzo-soprano” to be hitting an occasional high B or C and even, once, a D? (but not in the Sleepwalking Scene, where it’s called for)! Some scrambled rapid passages do little to spoil the powerful impression she makes. Strong support comes from Karl Ridderbusch (Banquo) and Carlo Cossutta (Macduff). Karl Böhm is apparently as willing to cut Verdi as he is Strauss, but leads a strong performance. This is the 1865 revision that Verdi made but it briefly reverts to 1847 so Milnes can have a longer death scene."
-- James Miller, Fanfare [3/2008]
Reviewing a later release of this recording, Bravissimo 9801
Works on This Recording
Macbeth by Giuseppe Verdi
Christa Ludwig (Mezzo Soprano),
Karl Ridderbusch (Bass),
Carlo Cossutta (Tenor),
Ewald Aichberger (Tenor),
Ljubomir Pantscheff (Bass),
Siegfried Rudolf Frese (Baritone),
Gildis Flossman (Soprano),
Sherrill Milnes (Baritone),
Harald Pröglhöf (Bass)
Vienna State Opera Chorus,
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1847/1865; Italy
Date of Recording: 04/1970
Venue: Live State Opera, Vienna, Austria
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Exciting performance. December 2, 2013
By Joseph Erdeljac (West Chester, PA) See All My Reviews
"This is a truly exciting performance of Verdi's Macbeth. The cast is wonderful in all respects, however Christa Ludwig in the role of Lady Macbeth can be debated. She is truly a Mezzo-Soprano of the first caliber. In her attempt to tackle a few soprano roles she pushes her voice to the limit resulting in a loud shout on pitch. This role probably is passable as Verdi himself did not want "beautiful singing" by his soprano. Ludwig fits this bill as pushing her range gives more of the character of Lady Macbeth. I do however, agree that her performance is excellent as is her Leonore in Beethoven's Fidelio. All other cast members are fit and up to the demands of their roles. In the event of Milnes I feel it is heavy roles like this one which helped shorten his on stage career. All in all this is a performance worthy of the price of admission."
One of my favorites December 21, 2011
By Brian Lowery (Kearneysville, WV) See All My Reviews
"I love Verdi's Macbeth and this is one of my favorite recordings. Sherril Milnes gives an enthusiastic performace along with Christa Ludwig. Missing is the opening prelude, but it throws you into the action right away, which is good. Also, it includes the "death aria" from the 1847 version. The recording lets your mind's eye picture what is happening on stage, better than most other recordings."