This production ran: Jan 1 - Dec 31
These performances and the entirety of the 2020–21 season have been CANCELED based on the advice of health officials who advise the Met and Lincoln Center. For more information and to review your options if you purchased tickets for any of these dates, read the complete announcement.
- Verdi: Nabucco Thomas Schippers Classical 2015 Preview SONG TIME Nabucco. Nabucco: Overture. By Giuseppe Verdi Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Thomas Schippers. 7:33 PREVIEW Nabucco, Act I. Nabucco, Act I: Introduction and Recitative: Gli arredi festivi giu candano infranti.
- Roberto de Simone's production of this epic opera firmly established Verdi as the voice of the Italian people.
Nabucco shows many elements of Verdi's middle and later masterpieces, especially in the stentorian role of Zaccaria, the deep basso father figure that everyone looks to for hope. But it also looks back to Bellini, especially in Abigaille's big aria in Act I which is very reminiscent of Norma's Casta Diva, no bad thing.
Further cementing her place as one of history’s most riveting dramatic sopranos, Anna Netrebko adds the bloodthirsty Babylonian princess Abigaille to her already impressive lineup of Met roles—trading off with Oksana Dyka. Baritone George Gagnidze is the tyrannical ruler Nabucco, alongside mezzo-soprano Varduhi Abrahamyan as Fenena, tenor Najmiddin Mavlyanov as Ismaele, and basses Morris Robinson and Dmitry Belosselskiy as Zaccaria. Marco Armiliato conducts.
Production a gift of Bill Rollnick and Nancy Ellison Rollnick
Major funding from Mr. and Mrs. Ezra K. Zilkha, Mercedes and Sid Bass, and Mr. and Mrs. Paul M. Montrone
Additional funding from the Gilbert S. Kahn and John J. Noffo Kahn, The Eleanor Naylor Dana Charitable Trust, and the National Endowment for the Arts
This production ran: Jan 1 - Dec 31
Languages sung in Nabucco
Title languages displayed for Nabucco
Met Titles In
Timeline for the show, Nabucco
Estimated Run Time
2 hrs 50 mins
Acts I & II
Acts III & IV
World premiere: Milan, Teatro alla Scala, 1842. The success of Verdi’s third opera, a stirring drama about the fall of ancient Jerusalem at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar (Nabucco), catapulted the 28-year-old composer to international fame. The music and Verdi himself were subsumed into a surge of patriotic fervor culminating in the foundation of the modern nation of Italy. Specifically, the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves (“Va, pensiero”), in which the Israelites express their longing for their homeland, came to stand for the country’s aspirations for unity and that exciting era in Italian history, the Risorgimento, or “Resurgence.”
In a remarkable career spanning six decades in the theater, Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901) composed 28 operas, at least half of which are at the core of today’s repertoire. His role in Italy’s cultural and political development has made him an icon in his native country. Temistocle Solera (1815–1878) was a professional librettist and, early in his career, a composer of moderate success. He also provided Verdi with the librettos for his first opera, Oberto, and the subsequent I Lombardi, Giovanna d’Arco, and Attila.
Solera’s libretto takes some liberties with biblical history, and the characters other than the title role are dramatic inventions. But the story as a whole stays close to events as they are related in Jewish scriptures: primarily Jeremiah, as well as 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Daniel, and the Psalms. The first part takes place around the destruction of the first temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE, with the remainder of the opera set in various locations in the city of Babylon.
Nabucco’s score, with its contrasts of the dynamic and the serene, provides an ideal frame for the personal and communal aspects of the drama. The chorus is assigned a major role, giving voice to a wide spectrum of feelings, from terror at the beginning to despair, faith, and finally bright hope. Rather than depicting a character that goes mad, as in so many other operas, Abigaille’s music reflects a personality that embodies madness through sheer malice. The opera contains a brief mad scene for the title character, but Verdi gives more emphasis to Nabucco’s return to sanity in his poignant Act IV aria “Dio di Giuda.” The supreme example of operatic prayer, of course, is found in “Va, pensiero.” The simplicity of the choral melody and the unity of the vocal line perfectly encapsulate the communal sentiment.
Placido Domingo (Nabucco), Riccardo Zanellato (Zaccaria) © Wiener Staatsoper/ Michael PöhnVienna State Opera Orchestra’s string players strum their bows to greet conductor Marco Armiliato. Most are not wearing face masks. But there’s no audience; this performance, in lockdown, for livestream. Even without the novel casting of the 80 year-old Placido Domingo as Nabucco, this Vienna State Opera production is something else. Gunther Kramer’s production analogises the destruction of the Temple, the persecution of the Jews by the Babylonians, with the Shoah, the extermination of the Jewish people by the Nazis. So the cast, the Chorus, are dressed as 1940s war refugees carrying suitcases, as if the black/white photo tableau screened backstage has come alive.
Opening Part 1 Vienna’s huge supplemented Chorus bewail the desecration of their land. ‘We are slaves, but hear our prayer, and forgive our transgressions’. Do not let them sit on the throne of David! Hebrew script is projected onto a screen, like a biblical commentary. Their High Priest Zaccaria (Riccardo Zanelatto), exhorts them, trust to God and fight bravely. He’s sent them a sign, delivered the King’s daughter. ‘The sun of a happier day has risen for us’, sings Zaccaria. The Israelites chorus sing and dance like klezmer performers.
Verdi’s subject is a people downtrodden by alien political masters. Surely for Verdi, the Jews exiled from their land is the struggle of his own Italian people under the yoke of foreign oppressors (in 1840, French and Austrian.) So Verdi’s music -especially Nabucco– was taken up by the Risorgimento, a battle cry for a united Italy.
In the opera, Nabucco, the Assyrian King, has occupied Jerusalem, the Jews holed up in the Temple, his daughter hostage. But Verdi and librettist Solera add a love intrigue. Fenena (Szilvia Vörös), captured by the Jews’ High Priest, had once helped Ismaele (Freddie de Tommaso) escape from Babylon, where Abigaille, her half-sister, had held him captive. That Fenena is now rescued by Ismaele kindles the love triangle. Ismaele is a fugitive from his own Jewish people, torn between love and kindred loyalty.
The King and his henchmen are on the threshold of the Temple. (Zaccaria threatens to kill Fenena.) Domingo’s Nabucco, white-haired, blue-suited, Let them tremble at my anger, none will survive: Zion will perish in a bloodbath. Domingo, his legendary tenor somewhat lacking power, but astonishing; in absolute control of his vocal reserves. Bow down before me, he sings as their conqueror. Fenena is abducted by Ismaele. Nabucco rages, he’ll sack the Temple, while the Hebrews threaten revenge against Ismaele, excoriated.
As Ismaele, British-Italian de Tommaso is a fine tenor, but a little underwhelming, the role colourless. Black-suited, wearing a skull cap, in metal-rimmed glasses, he looks like a bookkeeper. In Verdi’s drama, they’ve been lovers since he was in Babylon. You betrayed your duty, they accuse him. But there’s a love triangle. Abigaille, the King’s other daughter – the fiery Anna Pirozzi- sings passionately of how she loved him, but was rejected. Now, if you love me, I will save your people. Sörös/Fenena bitterly responds, Save him and leave me to my tears. Fenena, now a convert, identifies with the Jews, speaks for ‘my people.’ Whereas Abigaille wears royal blue, against the stark white/black colour-coding of the Israelites.
Mezzo Anna Pirozzi is outstanding as Abigaille, Verdi’s passionate, spurned lover suing for revenge. In her Act 2 aria, she holds a letter, she’s stolen. Her secret: she’s illegitimate! You are all deluded! Pirozzi’s Abigaille, passion unbridled, kneels, looks at herself in the mirror, her face lights up: she too once knew happiness. Backed by Verdi’s rousing chorus, she sings, on a glorious high note, Who will restore one day of that lost enchantment! Nabucco has invested Fenena his successor. But Abigaille will mount the blood-stained throne. She, once a humble slave girl, will have Princesses begging before her.
To a plaintive cello solo, Zaccaria, prays for the gift of prophesy, a miracle to convert the unbeliever, (Zanelatto’s bass gently delivered.) Ismaele begs for their mercy; the accursed man has no supporters. Tommaso is jostled by the Jewish congregation. But he’s saved by Fenena’s pleading as ‘a Hebrew woman’; and the King now returned.
Domingo is shaking; he’s struck mad by the revelation he’s a god. Domingo’s lifetime acting experience, its apotheosis in depicting an old man- like Shakespeare’s King Lear – suffering delusions of grandeur. Hear me, Babylonians, there is only one god, your King! Then Domingo holds his forehead, and collapses. Like Lear, with his daughter Cordelia, Nabucco reaches out to Fenena, to help him. Imagine Domingo on his knees, contrite: Why am I weeping? Abigaille, snatching Nabucco’s fallen crown, sings defiant: the splendour of Baal is endless.
Verdi’s Act 3 intermezzo, almost martial, brass, flutes predominate. The Hanging Gardens. The Hebrew script flickers, fades, perhaps suggesting tears falling. With Abigaille Queen, Prozzi’s regally ensconced, accompanied by Vienna’s lusty Chorus. Israel must die, demands Assyria’s Highpriest.
Nabucco Verdi Overture
Domingo’s Nabucco, recovered, but shaky, as if he’s had a nervous breakdown. He tries to reimpose his authority, but no match for Abigaille, who demands he sign a death warrant for the Jews, (and Fenena.) Prozzi/Abigaille taunts him. He insists she bow to him. She, indignant, flaunts the proof of her origins. Domingo sings of the shame. She scolds, poor old man, shadow of the King you were. Wonderful pathos, Domingo frail, on his knees. (And the dramatic irony.)
Their scene is a high point. She’s defiant, Prozzi’s Abigaille full-blooded: they’ll kneel before her, she once a slave. Domingo surpasses himself. Appeals for compassion, forgive a father for his foolishness. Deh, pardonna, deh perdonna. All he begs is his daughter’s life. She, forgive! you beg in vain.
They- the Israelites- are lying like corpses on the Vienna stage, but holding pictures of loved ones, family. The backdrop to the sublime Slaves Chorus. Va Pensioro. They rise up. My beautiful homeland is lost! O memories so cherished. O grant us the strength to bear our sufferings. They each hold up black/white archived photos of Holocaust victims.
Then Zaccaria, sings, Why are they weeping: he sees into the dark future, the fall of Babylon, when their chains are broken.
The Chorus are facing us, dressed modestly in 1940s clothing – men wearing white shirts, braces, the women in black, or sombre, floral-patterned dresses. Judah shall rise again, proclaims Zaccaria. (And this from a stage in Vienna, whence so many Jews were driven out.)
Verdi Nabucco Opera
Domingo’s Nabucco, out of his delirium, come to his senses, hears the band accompanying Fenena’s funeral procession. ‘Why is she in chains, weeping?’ Distraught, Nabucco realises, he’s a prisoner. And sings, God of the Hebrews forgive him. Domingo, hands reaching out, now kneeling, Dio di Guida! That voice, warm, miraculously expressive, Domingo perfectly cast as the old King. But no dodderer. Follow me, the wicked will fall! Assyria rise again!
Fenena and the condemned Hebrews gravely lined up, pray; the orchestra’s brass section, funereal. The firmament has opened, Vörös’ Fenena intensely moving, sings her soul is in flight. Domingo proclaims, Immenso Jehova, and, commandingly takes her by the hand. But distraught seeing a dishevelled Abigaille, who’s taken poison. Pirozzi frail, breaking with emotion, begs forgiveness.
A heartrending performance. The entire cast are on stage, applauding amongst themselves. And they paid tribute to ‘dear Placido’, who’s 80th birthday it was. © P.R. 22.1.2021
Photos: Anna Pirozzi (Abigaille); Placido Domingo (Nabucco); Scene Photo Szilvia Vörös and Vienna State Opera Chorus
© Wiener Staatsoper/ Michael Pöhn