Saturday, August 6, 2011

VERDI : NABUCCO

VERDI'S NABUCCO (or NABUCODONOSOR)

Radio New Zealand Concert network
Thursday 7th of March 2013 at 8 pm
Sunday 7th of August 2011 at 3.03 - 5.15 pm
Sunday 21st of October 2007 at 3 pm
2017
VERDI: Nabucco, a dramatic opera in four acts based on the fall of ancient Jerusalem at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar (Nabucco)
Nabucco....................... Plácido Domingo
Abigaille...................... Liudmyla Monastyrska
Fenena......................... Jamie Barton
Ismaele......................... Russell Thomas
Zaccaria....................... Dmitry Belosselskiy
Anna............................ Daniele Talamantes
High Priest of Baal...... Sava Vemic
Abdallo........................ Eduardo Valdes
Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orch/James Levine 2013
VERDI: Nabucco, an opera in four acts
Nabucco....................... Sebastian Catana
Abigaille...................... Paoletta Marrocu
Fenena......................... Helen Medlyn
Ismaele......................... Alejandro Roy
Zaccaria....................... Burak Bilgili
Anna............................ Anna Leese
Abdallo........................ Ben Makisi
High Priest of Baal...... Grant Dickson
Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus,
Auckland Philharmonia/Eckehard Stier  
(recorded in the Auckland Town Hall by RNZ)

INTRODUCTION
COMPOSER

SYNOPSIS
LIBRETTO (English translation)


Vivaldi's Nabucco: that is what it said in the New Zealand Listener (in 2007) for this week's opera (when it was previously broadcast, see below). That got me thinking. I looked up the list of Vivaldi's works and could not find that among them. I was highly suspicious, because that name Nabucco is peculiar to Verdi. His opera was first known as Nabucodonosor, and (as my Sunday-school taunt said: Nebuchadnezzar is a very big name, and I bet you can't spell it; all that was required in response was "I-T").  Nabucodonosor needed to be trimmed down to Nabucco (making the name meaningless in the process). The original Babylonian is Nabu-kudurri-usur, and another biblical form, which is closer to that, is Nebuchadrezzar (with -r- not -n-). Nebukadressar is the way I spell it, but editors always change it (there is red warning line under it as I write it here). His name begins with Nabu, the God who looked after destinies, and Nabu would protect him and his empire. He reigned from 605 till 562 BCE.

My first contact with the opera was by hearsay. One day I came home from work (teaching Latin and French at Granville Boys' High School in Sydney) and Helen told me about a beautiful chorus she had heard on the ABC, in their daily opera-half-hour (talk about rationing, but they did give us all the Bayreuth Festival recordings at night). Eventually, we both sang it in a choral concert, here {in a foreign land?}. It was the chorus of the Hebrew slaves, which they sing on the banks of the Euphrates river. "Go, my thought, on gilded wings" (Va, pensiero, sull'ali dorate); and "Greet the banks of the Jordan, and Sion's razed towers"; and "Harp of gold, why do you hang mute on the willow?".

Obviously we are hearing reminscences of that Hebrew Psalm (137): "By the rivers of Babel we sat down and wept, when we remembered Sion. On the poplar-trees we hung up our harps, when our captors asked us for songs.... How could we sing the song of Yahweh, when we were on foreign soil?" The Jews exiled in Babylonia were not pleased about their situation, and wanted utu: "Happy the man who seizes your children and dashes them against a rock". (You don't hear that verse read out in church.)

Of course, the story in the opera is fiction, but it takes the madness and self-deification of Nebukadressar from the Book of Daniel. The text wrongly calls the Kaldeans (Babylonians) "Assyrians" (but Nineveh and the Assyrian empire fell in 612 BCE).

But this work stirred the hearts of Italians against their "Assyrian" (actually Austrian) oppressors, and Verdi himself became the figurehead of this nationalistic movement.

As we know, Verdi had lost his wife and two children and despaired of his own life. He was sworn off music, until he happened to open this libretto, and the ice was broken. Through it he met his lifelong companion, the soprano Giuseppina Strepponi, the first Abigail.

I have seen a concert version in Wellington, and watched it on video. My three 12-inch plastic discs have Matteo Manuguerra as the King, Nicolai Ghiaurov as the High Priest Zaccaria, and the Priest of Baal is Robert Lloyd (remember him as Gurnemanz in Parsifal, the movie? he is nearly as old as me, and still performing in London and New York; but small roles, such as the nightwatchman in Meistersinger); Renata Scotto is Abigaille, and Elena Obraztsova is Fenena. Riccardo Muti conducts the great Philharmonia Orchestra (1978).

Nabucco has not made it into The Good Opera Guide of Denis Forman, so there cannot have been three recordings of it in the catalogue around 1990 (Gardelli, and Sinopoli, but Muti had been withdrawn!).

Sunday 21st of October 2007 at 3 pm
VERDI: Nabucco, an opera in four acts
Nabucco....................... Leo Nucci
Ismaele......................... Antonio Poli
Zaccaria....................... Dmitry Beloselsky
Fenena......................... Anna Malavasi
Anna............................ Erika Grimaldi
Abdallo........................ Saveria Fiore
High Priest of Baal...... Gotran Juric
Rome Opera Chorus & Orch/Riccardo Muti
(recorded in the Teatro dell'Opera, Rome by Italian Radio)

Sunday 7th of August 2011 at 3.03 - 5.15 pm
Opera in English
VERDI: Nabucco, an opera in four parts
Nabucco....................... Alan Opie
Ismael........................... Leonardo Capalbo
Zachariah...................... Alastair Miles
Abigail.......................... Susan Patterson
Fenena.......................... Jane Irwin
High Priest of Baal......... Dean Robinson
Abdullah....................... Paul Wade
Anna............................. Camilla Roberts
Opera North Chorus & Orch/David Parry
(Chandos CHAN 3136)



These links to Metropera archives are no longer active, regrettably:
BACKGROUND
UNDERGROUND
CHARACTERS
SYNOPSIS
STORYLINE

ANALYSIS

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