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  Verdi, Nabucco: Soloists,Bayerisches Staatsorchester. Chorus and Extra chorus of Bayerischen Staatsoper.Conductor: Paolo Carignani.Munich’s Nationaltheater. 22.7.2009 (JMI)

Production: Bayerische Staatsoper.

Stage Direction: Yannis Kokkos.
Sets and costumes: Yannis Kokkos.
Lighting: Michael Bauer.


Nabucco: Paolo Gavanelli.
Abigail: Alessandra Rezza.
Zaccaria: Stefan Kocan.
Ismaele: Aleksandrs Antonenko.
Fenena: Daniela Sindram.
High Priest: Christian Van Horn.
Abdallo: Kenneth Robertson.
Anna: Elena Tsallagova.

This production had its premiere in January of last year directed by Yannis Kokkos, who as usual for him, designed the sets and costumes. The production is very traditional and dedicated to relating the plot clearly. Sets are in the form of mobile elements, with steps, walls and some empty spaces set out in a cube form. These sets are always present with the exception of “Va Pensiero”, which is sung with the choir behind a large wire fence. Kokkos transfers the action to modern times with the Hebrews dressed in black and the Assyrians with helmets and dark blue uniforms. This is a Nabucco seen many times before, without personal readings or other strange elements. The stage direction offers nothing exceptional either, with a fairly static choir and singers who seem to know what they have to do. The one novelty of the production consists of a panel of lights that dazzle the audience, whenever Nabucco mentions God. Othersise the lighting does not take full advantage of the possibilities offered by a quite a dark production.

Paolo Carignani demonstrated once again that he is one of the most resourceful Italian conductors in this kind of opera. Nabucco has great moments, but in its score there is a lot of chum-pa-pa and it needs a very good conductor to produce a bright reading. Carignani fully succeeded: the orchestra was excellent at following his orders. A special mention is needed for the chorus too. They were truly outstanding.

The title role was played by Paolo Gavanelli, who has been one of the most important Verdi baritones around for some l years. If his frequent exhibition of vocal powers in the past had not taken its toll, he would now be the Verdi baritone par excellence, as he is at an almost ideal age for it. His voice has lost some power and harmonics in the last few years, and far from what it was perhaps 12 years ago. Still, he has some very important assets as a singer. He is a very intelligent artist, a most expressive singer who always sings with great intensity, perfect diction and he still has a magnificent breath control. All this meand that Gavanelli sings very well in the more intimate situations, because he understands perfectly how to use mezza voce andpiani. Something different happens in more dramatic passages where he has to show off his power. Although he was outstanding in his arias, with a particularly great interpretation of “Dio di Giuda” he was not at the same level in the cabalettas but even with his limitations, a fine singer and artist are still present.

The case for Alessandra Rezza (Abigail) was lost long ago, in my opinion. At 34 she is already a very limited soprano. Her bottom range is too weak, inaudible sometimes, and her top end is simply impossible. How a soprano can attempt those famous octave jumps in the cavatina, when there is nothing to jump with is hard to understand. There is middle voice, which is especially not powerful but has good agility, but that does not make a good Abigail from my pint of view. I was glad for her though, that the audience did not agree with me.

As Zaccaria we had the Slovak Stefan Kocan, replacing the announced Orlin Anastassov. The result was not very encouraging. His voice is a good enough size, but the timbre is very poor, a huge handicap for such an important role.

The Latvian tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko was a luxury as Ismaele. However, he did not convince me as much in this repertoire and I prefer him singing in Russian or Czech operas. Having said this, Ismaele is rather a minor character and one rarely has the opportunity to listen to such an important singer in this role. 

Daniela Sindram was a very good Fenena, singing the aria that Verdi wrote for this character in the final act of the opera with much taste and with beautiful piani.

There was  a full theatre once again and an excellent reception for the artists at the final bows. The triumph went to Paolo Gavanelli. In the final decibel contest, the silver medal was shared by Alessandra Rezza and Paolo Carignani. 

To end, I would like mention a most moving scene that I witnessed on my arrival at the theatre. Two ladies came down from a taxi, one of them in here 60s and the other in her 40s. The senior lady had to breathe oxygen and her friend carried the container. It took them more than 10 minutes to climb the 13 steps leading to the theatre entrance, with continuous pauses for breath. I confess that I was moved. An art that provokes such affection for it will truly never die.

José M Irurzun


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