What a recording - Verrett is stunning and vocally excellent. Was definitely at her best when this was done - her two big arias are super. An all star cast - who wouldn't have this as part of their collection.
There have not actually been that many studio recordings of this splendid opera, but two front-runners were made in 1976: this one and the other for EMI under Muti with Milnes and Cossotto. I like the latter but despite the beauty of its singing, do not find that it has the bite or drama of this recording, one of Abbado's very best operatic outings. Otherwise, there is an excellent vintage version with Warren and Rysanek under Leinsdorf but in less opulent sound, of course and then Cappuccilli's re-make as late as 1984 for Hungaroton, which finds him still in excellent voice and worthily partnered by the highly temperamental and exciting Sylvia Sass. I have no time for the 1966 Schippers account, the 1970 recording under Gardelli or Sinopoli's 1983 version, as all three suffer from either downright poor singing or at best examples of miscasting in Nilsson as the Lady, Fischer-Dieskau once again demonstrating his unsuitability to heroic Verdi baritone roles,and Bruson bleating and Zampieri making very strange noises respectively. If you want the original 1847 version, the live 1978 BBC recording with Rita Hunter remains highly recommendable (see my review).
Of course the definitive Lady has been and always will be Callas but we have only studio-recorded scenes and a 1952 live recording in poor sound to remember that portrayal by; nobody manages to conjure up so completely and chillingly as she the "voice of a she-devil" Verdi wanted but Verrett, despite being audibly stretched by the high tessitura, comes closest with her dramatic flair and ability to colour the text. Cappuccilli is a touch placid but suitably haunted and certainly does not coast his way through the role in the manner of which he must stand convicted in some other recordings. His was never the most resonant baritone but his masterly, long-breathed phrasing and acute response to two great partners in Verrett and Ghiaurov makes for some great exchanges. A young Domingo makes an impressive job of his one aria and brief contribution, while the La Scala forces are ideally galvanised under Abbado.
In brief this remains the most recommendable of all studio recordings,although I could never part with Callas's splendid and relatively late accounts of the big arias for Rescigno.
Along with Abbaddo's recording of Simon Boccanegra, also on DG, this set stands as a fitting testament to the conductor's tenure at La Scala in the 70s. The true sense of ensemble between the principals is clearly audible, and Cappuccilli and Verrett enjoy a rare chemistry as the guilt-wracked royal couple. The great baritone was sometimes accused of relying too much on the sheer beauty of his instrument at the expense of dramatic involvement, but there is no sign of that fault here. Listen to the way he and Abbaddo build the tension in the recitative prior to Duncan's murder, or the breathless helplessness he conveys in the subsequent duet with Verrett. Warmer and more italianate than Nilson (Decca), more verbally alert than Cossotto (EMI), and mercifully free of the exaggerated 'effects' employed by Zampieri (Phillips), Verrett covers the emotional gamut with Callas-like incisiveness and yet rarely displays strain in the high-lying tessitura. Domingo and Ghiaurov are splendid in their arias, the former's following a spell-binding "O patria oppressa" from the Scala chorus. For those who prefer their Verdi fast and furious, there is Muti on EMI with a fine cast (Milnes, Cossotto and Carreras - I find Raimondi's Banquo vapid). For me, neither that nor any other issue come near the ideal combination of subtlety and theatricality achieved here.
This masterpice was recorded in 1976 ,and until today there is no recording of the same value !"Macbeth," "Boccanegra ," "Aida " and "Un ballo in mascera" under Abbado`s baton-this is the golden time of La Scala ! (Chorus master is Romano Gandolfi!) If You like opera ,You must have all this recordings.
I love the atmosphere in this music anyway. But I actually needed a great recording to help learn the score. Good music loses too much in download form so I wanted the CD version. This is everything I hoped it would be. Easy enough to go straight to the track I needed and the clarity and quality was excellent. The sense of drama was there throughout and absolutely every voice was precise, clearly articulated and beautifully phrased. I had checked a range of reviews of different recordings on line before selecting this one and I am very pleased I did as I cannot fault it. It has been played everywhere and is a magnificent companion (at full throttle) for long motorway journeys. And equally for cold,dark evenings in front of the fire.
Just listen to one of the transfers (Myto, Opera d'Oro...) of a LIVE performance with this crew (minus Domingo; Franco Tagliavini is a very acceptable substitute)and see what this studio version lacks!