This Macbeth is the 62nd and final opera recording in English to be supported by Peter Moores – he started with the Goodall Ring and has been working in association with Chandos since 1995. In this case, no one collecting the series has any reason to hesitate: here is a very good cast, Edward Gardner draws vibrantly dramatic results from his English National Opera forces, the orchestral playing is excellent and the engineering is clear and clean.
Many more will want to hear the American soprano Latonia Moore’s performance as Lady Macbeth: she is apparently unfazed by the role’s difficulties and soars through her big numbers with plenty of luxurious, slightly smoky tone. It’s extremely impressive as a vocal performance, and if the voice lacks the dagger-like edge one ideally wants, her Sleepwalking scene is hauntingly done. Simon Keenlyside, opposite her, doesn’t command the richness of timbre and sheer vocal authority of a true Verdi baritone. He has the notes, though, and the performance cannot be faulted for integrity and commitment, and benefits from his experience of the role in the opera house.
Further advantages are Brindley Sherratt’s noble, sonorous Banquo and Gwyn Hughes Jones’s ardent, sweet toned Macduff. The smaller roles are all well filled. Gardner’s conducting has some electric moments and he conjures up the necessary mixture of threat and grandeur throughout. He also manages to sustain interest in the rip-roaring Act 3 ballet (the text used is that of the 1865 Paris revision but the set also includes the original final scene as an appendix). The Opera in English Chorus is on moving, concentrated form in ‘Patria oppressa’ (or ‘Land of torture, land of terror’ as it is here), and the Witches’ choruses are full of character, even if some of the words can’t help getting garbled.
Jeremy Sams’s translation opts for sensible clarity and comprehensibility and is not without its poetic touches, but Piave and Maffei’s approximation of Shakespeare isn’t done many favours by being brought back into the Bard’s own tongue, where it can sound distinctly prosaic. In sum, though, this set represents a fine culmination to Moores’s project.