Giuseppe Verdi – From La Scala. Macbeth
Recorded in January 1976.
About this collection of operas from La Scala:
Between 1960 and 1981, the music label Deutsche Grammophon recorded the eight greatest operas composed by Verdi at La Scala in Milan, the home of Italian operas. World’s leading singers and conductors were involved in the recording. The result provides you with the best possible way to get familiar with Verdi’s operas.
About this opera:
Macbeth is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi, with an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave and additions by Andrea Maffei, based on Shakespeare’s play of the same name. It was Verdi’s tenth opera and also the first of Shakespeare’s plays which he adapted for the operatic stage.
Written after the success of Atilla in 1846 by which time the composer had become well established, it was before the great successes of 1850 to 1853, Rigoletto, Il trovatore and La traviata which propelled him into universal fame. As sources, Shakespeare’s plays provided Verdi with lifelong inspiration: some, such as King Lear were never realized but he wrote his two final operas using Othello as the basis for Otello (1887) and The Merry Wives of Windsor as the basis for Falstaff (1893).
The first version of Macbeth was completed during the middle of what Verdi was to describe as his “galley years”. Ranging from 1842 to 1850, this period saw the composer produce 14 operas, but by the standards of the subject matter of almost all Italian operas during the first fifty years of the 19th century, Macbeth was highly unusual. The 1847 version was very successful and it was presented widely. Pleased with his opera and with its reception, Verdi wrote to Antonio Barezzi, his former father-in-law and long-time supporter, on 25 March 1847 just about two weeks after the premiere: “I have long intended to dedicate an opera to you, who have been father, benefactor, and friend to me. It was a duty I should have fulfilled sooner if imperious circumstances had not prevented me. Now, I send you Macbeth which I prize above all my other operas, and therefore deem worthier to present to you”.
The 1865 revision, produced for Paris in a French translation and with several additions, was less successful and the opera largely faded from public view until the mid-20th century revivals.
In 1864 Verdi was asked to provide additional music – a ballet and a final chorus – for a production at the Théâtre Lyrique (Théâtre-Lyrique Impérial du Châtelet) in Paris. Initially thinking these additions were all that was needed, he realized that an overhaul of the opera was required. Advising the impresario of the Lyrique that more time was needed, he took the opportunity to revise the entire opera, in particular by adding music for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in Acts 1 and 3; the addition of a ballet in Act 3; and changing the endings of Acts 3 and 4, in the latter case by dropping Macbeth’s aria Mal per me che m’affidai – “Trusting in the prophesies of Hell” and adding the triumphal choral ending.
Once again Piave was called into service and the new version was first performed on April 21, 1865. Overall, the first performance was poorly received, something which puzzled the composer: “I thought I had done quite well with it…it appears I was mistaken”. It remains the preferred version for modern performances.
The 1847 version was successful and was performed all over Italy until the revised version appeared in 1865. The first version was given its US premiere in April 1850 in New York and its UK premiere took place in October 1860 in Manchester. After the 1865 premiere of the revised version, which was followed by only 13 more performances, the opera generally fell from popularity. It was given in Paris in April 1865 and up to about 1900, it was rarely performed until after World War II. The US premiere of this version did not take place until 24 October 1941 in New York.
Two European productions, in Berlin in the 1930s and at Glyndebourne in 1938 and 1939, were important in helping the 20th Century revival. The 1938 production was the UK premiere of the revised version and the first to combine the death of Macbeth from the 1847 version with the triumphal ending from the 1865 version, something totally against Verdi’s wishes. Glydebourne revived it in the 1950s but it was not until 1959 that it appeared on the Metropolitan Opera’s roster for the first time. (It has been given 91 performances between 1959 and the 2008 revival). Similarly, the first presentations at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, with Tito Gobbi and then others in the title role, took place only in 1960.
In recent times, the opera has appeared more frequently in the repertories of the Washington National Opera (2007) and the San Francisco Opera (Nov/Dec 2007) and many other opera houses worldwide, but almost all productions stage the revised version with the exception of both the original and the revised versions which were presented in 2003 as part of the Sarasota Opera’s “Verdi Cycle” of all the composer’s operas in their different versions.
Stereo, ADD, mp3, 320 kbps, 353.747 Mb, 2 hours 33 minutes. Covers, info & synopsis included.