ALBUM TITLE: Verdi: Macbeth
PERFORMER: Latonia Moore, Simon Keenlyside, Brindley Sherratt, Gwyn Hughes Jones, Ben Johnson, Elizabeth LLewellyn; English National Opera/Edward Gardner
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 3180
The final instalment in the Chandos Opera in English series, funded by the Peter Moores Foundation, is the first of Verdi’s three Shakespearean operas, one over which – as Mike Ashman’s informative note reminds us – the composer took enormous trouble. So does this set, giving us the complete 1865 version plus, as an appendix, Macbeth’s moving death scene, dropped from the later edition.
One or two casting decisions, however, could have been improved on. Even if her vocalism is brave and bold, at times Latonia Moore’s Lady Macbeth could do with sharper definition and more sheer heft. Gwyn Hughes Jones’s stressed tenor does not always sit easily upon the lyrical lines of Macduff, especially in the elegiac aria in which he mourns his murdered children.
The rest is special. Simon Keenlyside explores the title role in depth, offering a huge variety of expression and fulfilling the potential of Verdi’s notes to reveal minute nuances of character and situation; his nervous usurper of the Scottish throne is an extremely powerful portrayal. Brindley Sherratt’s noble bass helps him draw a Banquo of considerable distinction, his aria shortly before his assassination a genuine highlight of the set. The smaller roles are all well taken, and the chorus is excellent, particularly when personifying Verdi’s galumphing comic-grotesque witches. Jeremy Sams’s effective translation comes over loud and clear.
Fine work, too, from English National Opera’s orchestra, here conducted by their masterly music director, Edward Gardner, who brings a keenly observant eye to the score and an exciting dynamism to his presentation of it.