As we prepare for Riccardo Muti‘s interpretation of Verdi’s Macbeth, we’re reminded that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has quite the performance history with the opera, both in whole and in part.

The CSO first performed music from Verdi’s Macbeth at the Ravinia Festival on July 21, 1977, under the baton of James Levine, the Festival’s music director. The first half of the program included selections from several Verdi operas (I vespri siciliani, Aida, La traviata, and Simon Boccanegra), but the second half was dedicated solely to Macbeth. Soprano Marisa Galvany (a last-minute replacement for an indisposed Martina Arroyo) and baritone Cornell MacNeil performed several selections, including the scena and duet from act 1, scene 2; “Pietà, rispetto, amore”; “Una macchia è qui tuttora”; and “Ove son io?”

Ravinia Festival, June 26, 1981

Ravinia Festival, June 26, 1981

Opening the Ravinia Festival’s forty-sixth season, the CSO gave its first complete performance of Verdi’s Macbeth on June 26, 1981. James Levine conducted, and the complete cast was as follows:

Macbeth Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Banquo John Cheek, bass-baritone
Lady Macbeth Renata Scotto, soprano
Servant/Herald Rush Tully, bass-baritone
Macduff Giuliano Ciannella, tenor
Malcolm Timothy Jenkins, tenor
Lady-in-Waiting Gene Marie Callahan, soprano
Assassin/Warrior Duane Clenton Carter, baritone
Bloody Child Sharon Graham, mezzo-soprano
Crowned Child Michelle Harman-Gulick, soprano
Physician Terry Cook, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
James Winfield, associate director

On one of our previous From the Archives CD collections, we released the scene that begins “Una macchia, è qui tuttora” from act 4 (with Scotto, Callahan, and Cook). The set—A Tribute to James Levine—was released in 2004 and was volume 18 in the series.

Verdi Choruses album cover

At Orchestra Hall, the Chicago Symphony Chorus (prepared by Margaret Hillis and guest chorus master Terry Edwards) performed numerous choruses from Verdi’s operas and the Requiem, including two from Macbeth: “Tre volte miagola” and “Patria oppressa!” on November 2, 3, and 4, 1989. Sir Georg Solti led the first two concerts, and Kenneth Jean led the November 4 performance.

With Solti conducting, the choruses were recorded by London Records. Michael Haas was the producer, James Lock was the engineer, and Deborah Rogers was the tape editor.

Also at the Ravinia Festival, bass-baritone James Morris performed “Studia il passo, o mio figlio!” on July 12, 1997, with Donald Runnicles conducting; on August 8, 1997, Christoph Eschenbach conducted the ballet music; and on August 3, 2002, Eschenbach again led the ballet music as well as “Pietà, rispetto, amore” with baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky.

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