Deutsche Grammophon Stereo 1976 3 LP Box + Booklet
There is tough competition for the best recording of 'Macbeth', but for me the combination of Abbado's explosive and rhythmically taut way with the score and Shirley Verrett's tour de force as Lady Macbeth give this one the edge. Verdi famously maintained he wanted a 'she devil' in the role of Lady Macbeth, and it is a role that has been essayed by both sopranos and mezzos, with varying success. Fiorenza Cossotto (in the rival EMI Muti version) has more idiomatic Italian and forward projection, but sounds generalized and rantingly melodramatic besides this much subtler performance. The variety of tone colours Verrett produces is awesome - the duet with Macbeth (a more than usually involved Piero Cappuccilli) is a locus classicus of opera as theatre. She has the heft and volume when needed (I don't understand the gramophone critic's reservation about Verrett's top notes - they ring out thrillingly) and yet produces an extraordinary performance of the Sleepwalking scene that once heard, haunts the memory - complete with perfectly placed pianissimo top Db. Cappuccilli sings with burnished tone and is suitably histrionic in the Banqueting scene, though not as alert to nuance as Giuseppe Taddei on the Schippers set (alas not recommendable, despite a strong performance from Birgit Nilsson, as it is a Schippers edition with perfectly idiotic cuts, snipping away at some of Verdi's revised moments.) No this is the one to have, Domingo and Ghiaurov give strong support, Abbado's way with the music, from the rum-ti-tum witches and the ballet to the Lady Macbeth scenas and pre-murder duet with Macbeth, the dark heart of this uneven but fascinating score, is fervent and Toscanini-like in its precision, and above all Verrett's mesmerizing performance give this one the palm. It's a classic of the gramophone.