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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Nabucco (1842)
Ambrogio Maestri (baritone) - Nabucco; Andrea Gruber (soprano) - Abigaille; Paata Burchuladze (bass) - Zaccaria; Nazzarno Antinori (tenor) - Ismaele; Nino Surguladze (soprano) - Fenena; Carlo Striuli (bass) - High Priest; Enzo Peroni (tenor) - Abdallo
SONICS acrobatic dance group
Coro del Teatro Municipale di Piacenza
Orchestra della Fondazione Arturo Toscanini/Daniel Oren.
Rec. live at the Teatro Municipale di Piacenza in 2004.
Stage Director and Design Paolo Panizza. Picture format 16:9. Region Code: 0. Sound format PCM Stereo. Dolby Digital 5.1.DTS 5.1.
ARTHAUS 101 241 [130'00]



The first DVD Nabucco I reviewed was notable for Renato Bruson in the title role (review). It was the best of the Brilliant Classics DVDs that have come my way. In the present (Arthaus) instance, the star on paper is the Georgian bass, Paata Burchuladze, and it is possible he might be the biggest draw as far as this DVD is concerned. He does not disappoint, but he is at least matched if not overshadowed by one other cast member.

The booklet informs us of the relatively traditional stagings prevalent in Italy - at least in comparison with those to be found in Germany - and, indeed, Paolo Panizza's take is broadly traditional. But it is impressive, not least for its use of clear colours that make an immediate emotional impact. Costumes are also generally traditional watch out for the all-gold Abigaille (face, hair ...), an effective touch. She loses the gold face after she 'loses face' later in the opera. All in all the staging is imaginative and true to the spirit of Verdi.

Daniel Oren leads the orchestra well, yet the orchestra is not of the very front rank, emphasised by a recording that lacks a certain amount of bass presence. Yet we do hear a musician in charge, possessed of real sensitivity, who marshals his forces with authority. This includes the generally good chorus although again it is the bass end that is weakest in the large ensembles.

Zaccaria's Cavatina, early in Act 1, shows immediately Burchuladze's immense stage presence, his glorious voice a joy. His expressive lyricism is all one could wish for. And it is around here that the 'other' significant star makes her presence known Nino Surguladze's superb Fenena, whose strong yet always beautiful voice rather dwarfs Nazzareno Antinori's acceptable-but-no-more tenor in the part of Ismaele. Abigaille is taken by Andrea Gruber, who, despite a warbly beginning has real power and presence and who proves before long that she can do a dolce when Verdi requires it of her.

In this opera there is a long period before the titular hero arrives. Ambrogio Maestri has, apparently, been taken under the wing of one Riccardo Muti. He is certainly powerful, matching Burchuladze with seeming ease. His Mad Scene is surely the highlight of his performance (Act 2 Scene 2), absolutely convincing.

Abigail's moment to shine comes at the beginning of Act 2. Gruber keeps the long recitative going well, before revealing an attractive cantabile in her tour-de-force aria. Beware, though, the camera's close-up of her golden face is perhaps a little too close for comfort. For scene two of the act, a very intense orange-red backdrop implies evening - colours throughout make clear impact Burchuladze again shines, his sotto voce marvellous.

Act 3 (set in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon) is where we meet the SONICS acrobatic dance group, and very nice they are too. Carlo Striuli gets his chance to shine as the High Priest, but really needs to show more authority, both vocally and in stage presence terms. The highlight of this act is the Abigaille/Nabucco duet, an absolutely gripping confrontation dramatically. Scene 2 of course includes 'Va pensiero' against a dark-blue night backdrop. It flows excellently, and after its patriotic surge dies away absolutely 'al niente'.

The staging of Act 4 is interesting. There is a raised platform, on which sits Nabucco. Action takes place below it, climaxing perhaps in Fenena's heartfelt prayer. What a lovely, musty sound Surguladze provides here, before going on to project her character's core strength.

Very strongly recommended from just about all angles.

Colin Clarke





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