Last night’s opening night performance of Nabucco was entirely sold out; there was a palpable excitement and buzz in the air. Thankfully, the production did not disappoint.
First of all, the music. Although Nabucco is mostly known for the Hebrew slaves’ third act chorus, Va, Pensiero (which was beautifully sung by the chorus), the entire opera is filled with some of the most beautiful music written by the great Giuseppe Verdi. Because I can’t list every song here, some of the (many) highlights included (besides Va, Pensiero): the Overture (Sinfonia), Gli Arredi Festivi, Io T’Amava!, Tremin Gl’Insani, Anch’Io Dischiuso Un Giorno, and Dio Di Giuda!. There wasn’t one single time where I didn’t find myself tapping my fingers or moving my head to the beat of the music. Maestro Carlo Rizzi did a fantastic job leading the orchestra, chorus, and singers, masterfully producing a grand sound to fill the vast theatre. His command of the score was evident, and his display of the intrinsically Italian style of Verdi’s music proved to be the strong foundation of the production. I only had Muti’s recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra/Ambrosian Opera Chorus to compare Rizzi’s conducting with, and while there were some differences (mainly in the tempo of certain passages), Rizzi was still able to bring out the best of Verdi’s music from the orchestra and singers.
The main singers were strong as well. Tatiana Serjan, who made her Lyric debut last year as Tosca, proved to be a formidable Abigaille. Serjan, who has collaborated with Maestro Muti many times, such as in the CSO performances of Verdi’s Macbeth and Verdi’s Messa da requiem, demonstrated that she was indeed, more of a Verdi soprano than a Puccini soprano. She attacked Verdi’s infamous and challenging two-octave descending phrases with ease and fluidity. Additionally, she sang the role with conviction and drama that was necessary to bring the production to life. Although I thought she was just okay in last year’s Tosca, she was brilliant in this year’s Nabucco.
Željko Lučić, the Serbian baritone who played the titular role of Nabucco, was a little reserved at the beginning of the opera, but fully came to life in the later stages of the production. He performed a rousing Dio Di Giuda! which became one of the highlights of the night. Bass Dmitry Belosselskiy as Zaccaria, mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong as Fenena, and tenor Sergei Skorokhodov, as Ismaele also gave solid performances.
Finally, I was impressed by Matthew Ozawa’s staging of the production. It was a simple and refined look that combined some modern elements (lighting, projections, etc.) with the traditional. The staging did not detract from the music, and instead only elevated the production – bringing the audience to ancient Babylon and Jerusalem. Sometimes, simplicity, while actually a more complex entity to achieve, is the best for opera, especially for those of Verdi.
Also, I got to see the performance with my fellow University Ambassadors, which was a fun experience! It’s always nice to enjoy opera with other students, especially because there seems to be a declining interest in opera and classical music by the younger population – something I hope will change in the future. There are still six more chances to see Nabucco live at Lyric Opera – go get your tickets before it’s too late! (I might go see it again if I have time :D)