Cornell MacNeil

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Cornell MacNeil (September 24, 1922 – July 15, 2011[1]) was an American operatic baritone known for his exceptional voice and long career with the Metropolitan Opera, which spanned 642 performances in twenty-six roles. F. Paul Driscoll wrote in Opera News that he "was a great baritone in era of great baritones — Warren, Gobbi, Merrill, Milnes — and in the contemporary press, comparisons to his colleagues were frequent. But MacNeil's performances had singular musical richness, and moral and intellectual complexity that were his alone. MacNeil may have had rivals, but he had no equals."[2]

Life and career[edit]

MacNeil was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Among his teachers were Friedrich Schorr and Dick Marzollo. He debuted with various companies in the United States from 1953 (including the New York City Opera).[3] In 1969 he became president of the American Guild of Musical Artists.[4]

MacNeil's voice was notable for its huge size and volcanic top notes. Despite some vocal decline in the late 1970s, he maintained a high standard throughout his long career. Two of his most notable roles were the title role in Rigoletto, and Iago in Otello. MacNeil was a regular at the Metropolitan Opera.[5] His debut was on March 21, 1959, as Rigoletto. Rigoletto was also the role he sang the most at the Met, 104 times, including the Met's first telecast of that opera in 1977, in the production by John Dexter.

MacNeil was also well known for the role of Baron Scarpia in Tosca, a role he sang 92 times at the Met between November 2, 1959 and December 5, 1987, which was his last performance with the company.

The baritone appeared at La Scala in 1959 (Ernani, with Franco Corelli) and in 1960 (Aida).

Abridged discography[edit]

  • Menotti: The Consul (Neway, Powers; Engel, 1950) Decca Records
  • Verdi: La traviata: excerpts (Kirsten, Hayward; Cellini, 1958) [live] VAI
  • Puccini: La fanciulla del West (Tebaldi, del Monaco, Tozzi; Capuana, 1958) Decca Records
  • Verdi: Aïda (Tebaldi, Simionato, Bergonzi; Karajan, 1959) Decca Records
  • Leoncavallo: Pagliacci (Tucci, del Monaco; Molinari-Pradelli, 1959) Decca Records
  • Mascagni: Cavalleria rusticana (Simionato, del Monaco; Serafin, 1960) Decca Records
  • Verdi: Un ballo in maschera (Nilsson, Simionato, Bergonzi; Solti, 1960-1) Decca Records
  • Verdi: Rigoletto (Sutherland, Cioni, Siepi; Sanzogno, 1961) Decca Records
  • Verdi: Luisa Miller (Moffo, Verrett, Bergonzi, Tozzi, Flagello; Cleva, 1965) RCA
  • Verdi: Rigoletto (Grist, Gedda; Molinari-Pradelli, 1967) EMI
  • Leoncavallo: Pagliacci (Carlyle, Vickers; Bartoletti, 1968) [live] VAI
  • Verdi: La traviata (Stratas, Domingo; Levine, 1982) Elektra

Abridged videography[edit]

  • Verdi: Rigoletto (Cotrubas, Domingo, Díaz; Levine, Dexter, 1977) [live]
  • Verdi: Otello (Scotto, Vickers; Levine, Zeffirelli/Melano, 1978) [live]
  • Puccini: Tosca (Verrett, Pavarotti, Tajo; Conlon, Gobbi, 1978) [live]
  • Weill: Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (Stratas, Varnay, Cassilly, Plishka; Levine, Dexter, 1979) [live]
  • Puccini: Il tabarro (Scotto; Levine, Melano, 1981) [live]
  • Verdi: La traviata (Stratas, Domingo; Levine, Zeffirelli, 1982)
  • Zandonai: Francesca da Rimini (Scotto, Rom, Domingo; Levine, Faggioni, 1984) [live]
  • Puccini: Tosca (Behrens, Domingo; Sinopoli, Zeffirelli, 1985) [live]


  1. ^ Jonathan Kandell (July 17, 2011). "Cornell MacNeil, Verdi Baritone at the Met, Dies at 88". The New York Times.
  2. ^ F. Paul Driscoll (August 2011). "Obituaries: Cornell MacNeil". Opera News. 76 (2).
  3. ^ TIME magazine (16 March 1959). "Baritone in the Pea Patch". Time. Retrieved 2007-01-19.
  4. ^ Eriksson, Erik in Allmusic (2006). "Cornell MacNeil". Archived from the original on 2008-07-24. Retrieved 2007-01-19.
  5. ^ Rudolph S. Rauch (November 2007). "Reunion: Cornell MacNeil". Opera News. 72 (8).

External links[edit]