Nice to see a familiar
name on the line-up for this Nabucco.
Renato Bruson of course is a known to
many, so to see him in the role of Nabucco
(or Nabuconodosor, as the cast list
has it, using the correct full version
of the name) makes this DVD worthwhile
in itself. Carlo Colombara, perhaps
not as starry a name as Bruson but familiar
nonetheless, makes an impact, too.
Verdi’s third opera and his first real
success. It is true that the mature
Verdi is waiting in the wings and inspiration
is not uniform. Nevertheless, it is
well worth airing (as is almost all
Conductor Paolo Carignani
has a native’s feel for Verdi, as becomes
apparent from the Overture (which uses
material from the opera). The 3/8 Andante
section that uses material from the
Chorus of the Levites is here marvellously
sweet (a lovely oboe solo).
The opera opens with
a chorus of Hebrews, who pray to Jehovah
to scatter the Babylonian armies. The
curtain rises to reveal the fairly small
stage of San Carlo and a lusty chorus.
Appropriately, colours are generally
The first soloist to
enter is Colombara as Zaccharia. Authoritative
of voice and imposing in demeanour,
he display a smooth legato and an even
range (including a firm high E natural).
A duet between Ismaele
and Fenena provides the opportunity
to enjoy the expressive Monica Bacelli
(who is later to excel herself in her
visionary Act 4 aria; Lauren Flanigan
(Abigaille), when she enters is not
very imposing, though she seems to warm
up to an impressive high B.
All is ready for Nabucco’s
entrance. The off-stage band as he approaches
works well, the re-entrance of the orchestra
as the troops appear making its presence
felt, yet Bruson’s presence is far more
imposing. He manages to project real
Act 2 brings an opportunity
for Abigaille to shine. The setting
is oppressive - dimly lit; dark clothing.
Her arioso is excellent, revealing a
powerful voice (good B flat on ‘betrayed’;
large leaps excellently negotiated).
All of the technical challenges seem
easy to her, so she can concentrate
on her character’s extreme emotions
(she even cries convincingly at the
In Scene 2, it is the
orchestra that excels itself preparing
for Colombara’s dark-hued contribution.
Yet he is eclipsed by Nabucco’s Mad
Scene that ends the act: Bruson is superb
(as he is in Act 4 Scene 1, another
opportunity for insanity-invocation).
Act 3 is set in the
Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The orchestral
Tempo di marcia is on the scrappy side.
But the biggest let-down is the portrayal
of the Priests, with stuck-on beards
à la Morecambe and Wise. Once
the hilarity has died down, the performance
is fair but no more. Better is the ensuing
Abigaille-Nabucco duet. Vocally, Flanigan
and Bruson’s strengths complement each
other, with her excellent trills and
even florid runs against his excellent
top register (top F natural). Nabucco’s
plea for mercy towards the end of Scene
1 is an eloquent one (there is a slight
Act 3 of course includes
the most famous part of the opera, the
chorus ‘Va pensiero’. The chorus suddenly
hits form, swelling with innate patriotism.
Finally, Act 4 concludes with Abigaille
(Flanigan) on top form (there is a short
cut in this act, also). Her death speech
is compellingly touching.
In short, this is a
Nabucco that is well worth investigating.
It is more rewarding than the Aida in
this series (http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2004/May04/Verdi_Aida_Brilliant.htm
) and certainly more so than the Gluck