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.
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.
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.
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.
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),
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.
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'.
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.
strongly recommended from just about all angles.