Cornell MacNeil

Biography

Born: September 24, 1922; Minneapolis, MN  
Although not regarded as a great operatic actor, Cornell MacNeil possessed one of the most sumptuous baritone voices of the twentieth century's second half. A mainstay at the Metropolitan Opera, his rounded, heavyweight instrument coursed magnificently through such roles as Tonio, Amonasro, Rigoletto, Germont, Nabucco, and Scarpia, making vocal points impossible to ignore. MacNeil's occasional tendency toward unsteadiness was mitigated by the Read more sheer splendor of his sound. MacNeil was one of the last of the true dramatic Verdi baritones, and the end of his career left a void that is still unfilled.

After study with Wagnerian bass-baritone Friedrich Schorr at the Hartt College of Music in Hartford, CT, MacNeil sang in Broadway musicals before he created the role of John Sorel in Menotti's The Consul in Philadelphia on March 1, 1950. He made his debut with the New York City Opera in 1953, singing Germont in a March 21 matinee performance of La traviata with Frances Yeend as Violetta. He remained with the company until the fall season in 1956, singing among other roles Escamillo, Rigoletto, Valentin, and Stephano in the American premiere of Martin's The Tempest (Der Sturm). In 1955, MacNeil made his debut in San Francisco as Escamillo, his acting tepid, but his voice having "the ring of great promise."

A 1957 production of Manon Lescaut with Tebaldi and Björling introduced him to Chicago audiences on October 21. He followed that with a powerfully sung Alfio two nights later and returned for the 1958 season as Ford and Sharpless, also singing the Prologue in Pagliacci before yielding to Tito Gobbi as Tonio. In 1965, MacNeil offered his Rigoletto in a production regarded as otherwise lackluster.

Debuts at both La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera occupied the baritone in 1959. In Milan, he appeared as Carlo in Ernani, while at his March 21 Met debut the role was Rigoletto, the first of nearly 500 performances ranging over 26 roles. MacNeil's large, rolling voice found a congenial home at the old Met and, later, in the even larger new theater. In addition to the great Verdi roles for which he was so well-suited, he mastered such verismo roles as Michele in Il Tabarro and the chilling Gianciotto in Francesca di Rimini, the latter in a production televised to a large national and world-wide audience. In the latter part of his career, his interpretations showed increased dramatic specificity and vitality; some indeed were strongly compelling.

In addition to his performing career, MacNeil took time to serve as president of the American Guild of Musical Artists beginning in 1969.

In bass Jerome Hines' book, Great Singers on Great Singing (1982), MacNeil is outspoken about a variety of issues facing both fledgling singers and established artists. Given his long career (he was still singing leading roles in his mid-sixties), his words merit attention. MacNeil is particularly critical of the term "color," insisting rather that singers think about intent. "Breath control," too, is a term he disparages, preferring to believe that good singing results from balance of physical elements. On the issue of support, he considers that the diaphragm is "enormously overrated" as the basic means. Rather, he states that the floating ribs of the singer's back provide the cushion on which breath is made available -- and that most singers take in more breath than is necessary. Read less
Browse 1-25 of 41 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    The Verdi Tenor / Carlo Bergonzi [17-CD Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002089202 Release Date: 08/12/2014   Number of Discs: 17
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi,  Francesco Cilèa,  Umberto Giordano,  Giacomo Meyerbeer  ... 
    Performer:  Giulietta Simionato,  Cornell MacNeil,  Carlo Bergonzi,  Piero de Palma  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan,  Sir Georg Solti,  John Pritchard,  Rafael Kubelik  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna Friends of Music Society,  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Chorus  ... 
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  • 2.
    Puccini: La Fanciulla Del West / Capuana, Tebaldi, Del Monaco, Macneil
    Label: Urania   Catalog: 121215 Release Date: 06/10/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
    Performer:  Bianca Maria Casoni,  Mario Del Monaco,  Piero de Palma,  Michele Cazzato  ... 
    Conductor:  Franco Capuana
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Chorus,  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra
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  • 3.
    Menotti: The Consul, The Medium, The Telephone / Engel, Balaban, Rescigno, Et Al
    Label: Gala   Catalog: 100628 Release Date: 11/01/2013   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Gian Carlo Menotti
    Performer:  Maria Marlo,  Andrew McKinley,  Maria Andreassi,  Marie Powers  ... 
    Conductor:  Lehman Engel,  Emanuel Balaban
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  • 4.
    Verdi at The Met
    Label: Sony   Catalog:  721202 Release Date: 09/30/2013   Number of Discs: 20
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Rosa Ponselle,  Friedrich Jagel,  Lawrence Tibbett,  Henriette Wakefield  ... 
    Conductor:  Ettore Panizza,  Erich Leinsdorf,  Thomas Schippers,  Fritz Stiedry  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Chorus,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
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  • 5.
    Label: Gala   Catalog: 7703776 Release Date: 06/14/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Marilyn Horne,  James Morris,  Leontyne Price,  Cornell MacNeil  ... 
    Conductor:  James Levine
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  • 6.
    Label: Gala   Catalog: 7704303 Release Date: 05/24/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi,  Vincenzo Bellini
    Performer:  Saverio Porzano,  Carlo Cava,  Mario Rinaudo,  Virginia Zeani  ... 
    Conductor:  Franco Capuana,  Francesco Molinari-Pradelli
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  • 7.
    Verdi: The Complete Works
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001806202 Release Date: 03/05/2013   Number of Discs: 75
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Maria Guleghina,  Samuel Ramey,  Violeta Urmana,  Sara Fulgoni  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner,  Lamberto Gardelli,  James Levine,  Richard Bonynge  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  London Voices,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $236.99
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  • 8.
    Solti Conducts The Verdi Operas [16-CD Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001746202 Release Date: 10/16/2012   Number of Discs: 16
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Jon Vickers,  Robert Merrill,  Rita Gorr,  Leontyne Price  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Opera House Orchestra,  Rome Opera House Chorus,  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Chorus  ... 
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  • 9.
    Label: Urania   Catalog: 184 Release Date: 07/24/2012   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi,  Giacomo Meyerbeer,  Giacomo Puccini,  Umberto Giordano  ... 
    Performer:  Carlo Bergonzi,  Ettore Bastianini,  Antonietta [Soprano Vocals] Stella,  Giulietta Simionato  ... 
    Conductor:  Erich Leinsdorf,  Gianandrea Gavazzeni,  Tullio Serafin,  John Pritchard  ... 
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  • 10.
    Verdi: Ernani / Schippers, Bergonzi, Nagy, Price, Metropolitan Opera
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 190996 Release Date: 01/17/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Ronald Reitan,  Cornell MacNeil,  Leontyne Price,  Carlo Bergonzi  ... 
    Conductor:  Thomas Schippers
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Chorus,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
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  • 11.
    Verdi: La Traviata / Krips, Cotrubas, Gedda, Gruberova, MacNeil, Loose, Vienna State Opera Orchestra
    Label: Orfeo D'or   Catalog: 816112 Release Date: 11/22/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Cornell MacNeil,  Nicolai Gedda,  Emmy Loose,  Ileana Cotrubas  ... 
    Conductor:  Josef Krips
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Vienna State Opera Orchestra
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  • 12.
    The Decca Sound [50-CD Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001619902 Release Date: 11/15/2011   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Manuel de Falla,  Claude Debussy,  Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov,  Enrique Granados  ... 
    Performer:  Teresa Berganza,  Alfredo Campoli,  Vladimir Ashkenazy,  Cecilia Bartoli  ... 
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet,  Ataulfo Argenta,  Anatole Fistoulari,  Vladimir Ashkenazy  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $175.49
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  • 13.
    Verdi: Otello / Levine, Vickers, Scotto, Macneil, Metropolitan Opera
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 791012 Release Date: 08/16/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Cornell MacNeil,  Jon Vickers,  Renata Scotto
    Conductor:  James Levine
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
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  • 14.
    Puccini: Tosca / Price, Corelli, MacNeil, Adler, Metropolitan Opera
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 80468 Release Date: 01/25/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
    Performer:  Leontyne Price,  Franco Corelli,  Cornell MacNeil
    Conductor:  Kurt Adler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra,  Metropolitan Opera Chorus
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  • 15.
    James Levine - Celebrating 40 Years At The Met  [21 DVD Box Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 1135701355 Release Date: 12/07/2010   Number of Discs: 21
    Composer:  Alban Berg,  John Corigliano,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Giacomo Puccini  ... 
    Performer:  Franz Mazura,  Julia Migenes,  Evelyn Lear,  Kenneth Riegel  ... 
    Conductor:  James Levine
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra,  Metropolitan Opera Chorus
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    DVD: $299.99
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  • 16.
    Puccini: Tosca / Conlon, Pavarotti, Verrett, Macneil, Metropolitan Opera
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001479309 Release Date: 10/19/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
    Performer:  Cornell MacNeil,  Luciano Pavarotti,  Shirley Verrett
    Conductor:  James Conlon
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra,  Metropolitan Opera Chorus
    DVD: $29.99
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  • 17.
    Verdi: Aida / Tebaldi, Simionato, Bergonzi, Karajan
    Label: Musical Concepts   Catalog: 2009 Release Date: 02/09/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Piero de Palma,  Arnold Van Mill,  Cornell MacNeil,  Carlo Bergonzi  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna Friends of Music Society Chorus
    CD: $13.99
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  • 18.
    The Record of Singing Vol 5 - From the LP to the Digital Era
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 28949 Release Date: 03/10/2009   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Jacques Offenbach,  Georges Bizet,  Giuseppe Verdi  ... 
    Performer:  John Shirley-Quirk,  Luciana Serra,  Neil Shicoff,  Alain Vanzo  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks,  Sylvain Cambreling,  Georges Prêtre,  Herbert von Karajan  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Brussels Théâtre de la Monnaie Orchestra,  Paris Opera Orchestra  ... 
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  • 19.
    Verdi: Un Ballo In Maschera / Solti, Bergonzi, Nilsson
    Label: London/Decca Grand Opera Series   Catalog: 425655 Release Date: 05/13/2008   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Tom Krause,  Cornell MacNeil,  Birgit Nilsson,  Carlo Bergonzi  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Chorus,  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra
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  • 20.
    Puccini - The Great Opera Collection / 15-Disc Set
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001064502 Release Date: 03/11/2008   Number of Discs: 15
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
    Performer:  Silvio Maionica,  Renata Tebaldi,  Mario Del Monaco,  Piero de Palma  ... 
    Conductor:  Francesco Molinari-Pradelli,  Tullio Serafin,  Franco Capuana,  Alberto Erede  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra,  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Chorus,  Florence Maggio Musicale Chorus  ... 
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  • 21.
    Verdi: Rigoletto / Molinari-pradelli, Macneil, Ferrin, Et Al
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 93282 Release Date: 09/25/2007   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Ruggero Raimondi,  Franco Ricciardi,  Alfredo Giacomotti,  Mirella Fiorentini  ... 
    Conductor:  Francesco Molinari-Pradelli
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Opera House Chorus,  Rome Opera House Orchestra
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  • 22.
    Zandonai: Francesca Da Rimini / Domingo, Scotto, Levine
    Label: Philips   Catalog: 000956609 Release Date: 09/11/2007  
    Composer:  Riccardo Zandonai
    Performer:  Placido Domingo,  Renata Scotto,  Cornell MacNeil
    Conductor:  James Levine
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra,  Metropolitan Opera Chorus
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  • 23.
    Verdi: Aida / Karajan, Tebaldi, Simionato, Bergonzi, Macneil
    Label: London/Decca Grand Opera Series   Catalog: 000830402 Release Date: 05/08/2007   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Carlo Bergonzi,  Cornell MacNeil,  Giulietta Simionato,  Renata Tebaldi  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna Friends of Music Society
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  • 24.
    Verdi: Un Ballo In Maschera / Solti, Bergonzi, Nilsson
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 000829602 Release Date: 04/10/2007   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Carlo Bergonzi,  Birgit Nilsson,  Cornell MacNeil,  Giulietta Simionato  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra,  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Chorus
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  • 25.
    Verdi: Rigoletto / Previtali, Macneil, Scotto, Tucker
    Label: Opera D'oro   Catalog: 1465 Release Date: 10/10/2006   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Martha Carrizo,  Stella Silva,  Victor De Narké,  Carmen De La Mata  ... 
    Conductor:  Fernando Previtali
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Buenos Aires Teatro Colón Chorus,  Buenos Aires Teatro Colón Orchestra
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