Seattle Opera Presents Nabucco—Verdi’s first "Big Hit"

Nabucco © Philip Newton courtesy of Seattle Opera

Nabucco © Philip Newton courtesy of Seattle Opera

Nabucco helped launch Giuseppe Verdi’s spectacular career in Milan in 1842 and still thrills audiences around the world.  Seattle Opera opened their debut of Verdi’s masterpiece on Saturday, August 8th, with an inventive new production.  Seattle Opera’s aim is to put the orchestra at the heart of the action and to bring the singers’ artistry into sharp focus. The spare stage setting with a larger-than-life projected background image supports the ample cast beautifully.

There are Italians involved with the production. The role of Abigaille is being interpreted by two different and talented performers: Mary Elizabeth Williams, who has collaborated with Seattle Opera in the past, and the Italian singer, Raffaella Angeletti, who appears in her Seattle Opera debut. Italian Maestro Carlo Montanaro interprets Verdi expertly and leads the orchestra with passion and subtlety as befits the sophisticated score.

The Seattle Opera Chorus in Seattle Opera's Nabucco. © Philip Newton

Nabucco’s Italian libretto, by Temistocle Solera, is based on the Biblical story known to English speakers as the story of Nebuchadnezzar. According to a reference made in the Wikipedia article about this opera, Solera’s libretto also drew from an 1836 play by Auguste Anicet-Bourgeois and Francis Cornue. Antonio Cortese's ballet adaptation of the play (with its necessary simplifications) was presented at La Scala in 1836 and was also likely an important reference for the libretto.

Verdi’s opera captures the voice of the ancient Hebrews and their struggle as exiles. We follow their journey as they are taken into bondage, feeling their emotions deeply through the evocative choral music.  Can the love between two people endure such tribulations? The deeply human truth resounds through Verdi’s rich interpretation of this poignant story.

One of the highlights of the opera is the famous chorus “Va pensiero,” expressing the Hebrew slaves’ longing for their homeland.  On opening night the stunning performance of this chorus thrilled the near-capacity crowd.

This video clip gives some inkling of the power of this chorus:

The Seattle Opera Production of Nabucco continues throughout August. For more information, see this link:


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