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Verdi, Nabucco: Soloists, Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Regio di Parma.Conductor: Michele Mariotti.Teatro Regio di Parma. 12.10.2009 (JMI)

Verdi Festival.

Production: Teatro Regio di Parma.
Director: Daniele Abbado (Original)
Carolina Lang (Revival)
Sets and Costumes: Luigi Perego.
Lighting: Valerio Alfieri.


Nabucco: Leo Nucci.
Abigaille: Dimitra Theodossiou.
Zaccaria: Riccardo Zanellato.
Ismaele: Bruno Ribeiro.
Fenena: Anna Maria Chiuri.
High Priest Baal: Alessandro Spina.
Anna: Cristina Giannelli.
Abadallo: Mauro Buffoli.

My stay in Parma came to an end with this premiere of Nabucco and again I left the city impressed by the work put in to identify Parma with its Verdi Festival. This identification has no parallel at any other opera Festival in the world, perhaps even including Bayreuth. Every day the most important newspaper in Parma dedicates a minimum of two full pages to the Festival and this Nabucco premiere was broadcast live by the local television station, with an impressive array of journalists and cameras in the theatre hall. Obviously, the impact of the Festival cannot pass unnoticed by workers at companies with financial problems and there was a demonstration protest by some of them at the theatre. What better place for them to proctect their interests!

This production of Nabucco was premiered at the Festival of last year in Reggio Emilia (see review) and all I can say now is that the lighting seemed better this time with the direction in the hands of Caroline Lang.

As last year, the musical direction was entrusted to Michele Mariotti, whose immersion in the score has deepened further allowing him to provide a very remarkable reading. Simply seeing the warmth that all the singers offered him from the stage was enough realize that this young maestro has managed to develop genuine team work producing very good results. His interpretation of “Va pensiero” was unique: a very personal reading, slow, solemn and moving from which the Teatro Regio Chorus rewarded him with spectacular and truly unusual performance. I had never heard a chorus singing this passage at such a pianissimo complete with real diminuendos. This only can be done by an exceptional choir; exceptional from beginning to end and a superb compliment to its Director Martino Faggiani. Similarly, the music from of the Teatro Regio Orchestra was everything to be expected from this excellent group.

The protagonist Nabucco was Leo Nucci, the Verdi Festival’s true star since he was also Francesco Foscari in the first performances of I Due Foscari. I have written more than once that Nucci’s singing is a real miracle but having said this, and while continuing to recognize his extraordinary abilities to the full , I must add that his Nabucco is not quite his Rigoletto. Leo Nucci simply is Rigoletto, while somehow he plays Nabucco: not exactly the same things. Don’t get me wrong, Nucci was an excellent Nabucco, particularly singing the aria “Dio di Giuda” but his Rigoletto will remain in operatic history for ever.

As last year in Reggio Emilia, Abigaille was the Greek soprano Dimitra Theodossiou. This singer raises huge enthusiasm among certain opera fans, who consider her a true diva, following her everywhere to show their enthusiasm and support for the goddess. The cheers she received were not even true cheers, but spectacular screams, so loud that it seemed as if her life might be at risk. At her final bow she was almost completely covered by flowers, thrown from the upper floors, with none left at all for any other artist. Not being a member of the new Theodossiou religion myself, my opinion is that this soprano could be an outstanding belcanto singer, as one can realize listening the way she sings the lyric passages in opera, but I don’t consider her a dramatic soprano; which is what is needed mostly for Abigaille. Here, her lower range is rather weak and her top can too easily become metallic and shouty. I would love to see her in less dramatic, purely bel canto parts however.

Riccardo Zanellato replaced Giorgio Surjan as Zaccaria and he was perfectly good in the part. The voice lacks the heft needed for the character, and can be rather too tight at the top.

Tenor Bruno Ribeiro confirmed the positive impression he left last year as Corrado at Il Corsaro since his voice is well-suited to Ismaele. The Fenena was mezzo soprano Anna Maria Chiuri, who is always a fine singer.

As might be expected there was a completely full house for this almost gala performance. “Va pensiero” was encored at popular request and at the final bows, there were triumphs for Leo Nucci, Dimitra Theodossiou and Michele Mariotti.

José M Irurzun

Picture © Roberto Ricci  Teatro di Parma

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