The Perfection of Nabucco

by C. I. Roman. 0 Comments

Nabucco is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi and Italian librettist Temistocle Solera, based on the Biblical story and the 1836 play by Auguste Anicet-Bourgeois and Francis Cornue. It is Verdis third opera and the one which is considered to have permanently established his reputation as a composer.

Nabucco follows the plight of the Jews as they are assaulted, conquered, and subsequently exiled from their homeland by the Babylonian King Nabucco. The historical events are used as background for a romantic and political plot.

Washington National Operas presentation of Nabucco is spectacular. Thaddeus Strassberger, the shows director and set designer, presented the idea to show how this opera, might have come across to an audience at its 1842 premiere at La Scala. To underline the point, he presents it as a story-within-a-story, enacted before a 19th-century audience with a row of armed Austrian soldiers.

The sets were wonderfully lavish; reminding me of a Fragonard painting with their tones of blue background and honey colored lights.

The best known number from the opera is the "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves," Va Pensiero which is regularly given an encore when performed. In 19th-century Italy it became a veritable anthem of Italian independence was absolutely magnificent. The voices of the chorus blended so beautifully especially during the final crescendo that one must imagine this is what paradise must be like. Although it was a bit confusing to some when the audience when we are moved behind the scenes, to see ballerinas practicing, stagehands moving sets, seamstresses sewing costumes, while the chorus sang in the background.

Singers of Verdis music are a rare breed but the cast assembled for this production was flawless. Italian baritone Franco Vassallo (Nabucco) delivered his role exceptionally well, but it was in this persons opinion that the Hungarian soprano Csilla Boross (Abigaille) who stole the show with her powerful voice. The mezzo-soprano Geraldine Chauvet (Fenena) had a consistent, even sound.

The eternal music of Verdi, the cast and the sumptuous costumes and sets made this one opera worth seeing, but dont take my word see for yourself. I have included two clips; the second is a clip from Italy in 2011 with conductor Riccardo Muti so you get the feeling of what occurred at the end of opera at the Kennedy Center when soprano Csilla Boross led the audience in an impromptu sing-a-long of the Va Pensiero chorus.

One does not have to be Italian to feel the patriotism of this song which brought some in the audience to tears when referring to the homeland. Perhaps this was a political statement by the National Opera in these strained and troubled political times of our country? Or maybe it was just an audience moved and overcome by the beauty of the music. Whatever it was, make sure you see the second clip to the very end.

Carmen Ileana Romn writes a regular column for

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