Webmaster: Len Mullenger
Seen and Heard Opera Review
in English): soloists,
chorus and Orchestra of Opera North / David Parry,
Lowry Theatre, (RJF)
Opera in four parts. Originally known as
Nabucadonosor after the play from which Temistocle
Solera derived the libretto. First
performed at La Scala,
King of Babylon, Alan Opie (bar);
The premiere of Nabucco
Verdi’s first two operas could be seen a Donizettian
in idiom, flavour and pace, Nabucco was something different. The forward
thrust and vibrancy of the music were entirely different from
anything that had gone before and were to be the hallmark
of Verdi’s subsequent early period works. Rossini had used
the chorus as a major protagonist
in a number of his works, particularly the opera seria of
Concert performances are
the order of the day for Opera North since the spring of 2005
whilst their base at the lovely Matcham Grand Theatre in
An opera company giving concert performances of a work like Nabucco should provide a red-letter day for the audience. Unencumbered by costume and producer quirks the soloists and chorus should present a thrilling evening to tell ones children about. In this day and age there is always the problem of casting suitable voices in Verdi, and in nearly every respect Opera North were successful.Where they were less so was in two important respects. The first was the in choosing to perform the opera in English although this might have been influenced by the decision to record the team for an issue in Chandos’ Opera In English Series supported by the Peter Moores Foundation. In general the prosody of the English language does not make an ideal marriage with Verdian cantilena, no matter how good the translation or diction of the soloists and chorus neither of which could be faulted here. And an avoidable decision was the placement of the 44 strong chorus on steeply raked tiers of rows that had the top row at least 18 feet above the soloists. The result was a flat vertical wall of choral sound rather than one of horizontal depth and which disturbed the normal aural impact. Verdi’s music is unique in Italian opera in that the melodic creation and thrust of the music with its variation of dramatic and lyrical episodes requires a conductor with a natural feel for the idiom. Whilst I have admired David Parry’s conducting in the bel-canto repertoire on many Opera Rara issues, I feel he conducts Verdi as it were verismo. Far too often, he let the brass and timpani off their leash to the detriment of the Verdian line as well as to the sound of his his soloists on occasions.
The soloists walked on and
off the platform as they would in a fully staged performance.
The first to be heard was Tómas Tómason as Zaccaria. He is the third bass used in the series of performances.
Verdi wrote three great arias for the basso cantante
voice in Nabucco. In the first,
as Zaccaria appeals to the Hebrews to be of good cheer (Sperate, o figli),
Tómasson started with some sonority in the lower range of
his voice but as the aria progressed showed serious weaknesses
in the upper voice that a Verdi bass needs, and where his
tone thinned and an incipient vibrato became increasingly
Whilst the evening missed the high standard I had hoped for, I suspect that the earlier performances with Alastair Miles as Zaccaria would have been stronger. If Claire Rutter is on the recording, enthusiasts of opera in English will have much to look forward to.