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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Nabucco - lyric drama in four parts (1841)
Nabucco, King of Babylon - Igor Morosow (bar)
Zaccaria, High Priest of the Hebrews - Simon Yang (bass)
Abigaille, a slave believed to be Nabucco’s eldest daughter - Gabriella Morigi (sop)
Fenena, Nabucco’s daughter - Elisabeth Kulman (sop)
Ismaele, nephew of the King of Jerusalem - Bruno Ribeiro (ten)
The High Priest of Baal - Janusz Monarcha (bass)
Arad State Philharmonic Chorus
Europasymphony Orchestra/Ernst Märzendorfer
rec. open air event, Römersteinbruch, Festival of St Margarethen, 14 July 2007

Picture Format: NTSC 16:9 anamorphic
Sound Format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Subtitles: Italian, German, English
Booklet notes: English, German
Region Code: 0 (All Regions)
EUROARTS 2056228 [122:00]

 


The St Margarethen Opera Festival is held in Europe’s biggest natural stage (7,000 acres), once a Roman quarry, near Eisenstadt, some 25 miles south of Vienna. The quarry’s bizarre rock formations lend an impressive backdrop for opera productions. Indeed, here they are adapted impressively in the huge stage area to suggest castles, palaces and temples in Jerusalem and Babylon, the locations of Nabucco. This was Verdi’s third opera and it catapulted him to fame, especially for its renowned chorus of the Hebrew slaves, “Va, pensiero, sull’ali dorate”. This became almost an Italian national anthem and a major rallying cry for Il Risorgimento. It is a pity that, here, this most stirring of choruses lacks bite; where is the joy and exultation of being freed from captivity? Generally, the singing of the Arad Chorus does not impress as much as that of the Verona Arena in the rival NVC Arts DVD (see review). The Verona orchestra, too, is preferred; right from the beginning. Their overture is dramatic and rhythmically vibrant.

Yet this EuroArts Nabucco is a feast for the eye. The costumes are sumptuous. A huge cast is employed, including quite a few stunt artists leaping from castle battlements, duelling or falling in flames from great heights. What appears to be a huge towering siege machine breathing fire trundles on to signify Nabucco’s victorious entry into Jerusalem and the storming of the temple. Some of the special effects, however, especially, for the thunderbolt that strikes down Nabucco, are not well conceived and are unconvincing. 

The two bass roles are the keystones of any Nabucco performance. Simon Yang is consistently impressive; as Zaccaria the High Priest of the Hebrews, he exudes authority, and his voice is commensurately commanding. Igor Morosow has fearsome competition in the title role from Renata Bruson, magnificent on the NVC DVD. Morosow is at times underpowered but is persuasive in his emotional transformations from cruel tyrant to confused madman to supplicant as he prays to the God of the Hebrews for forgiveness. Bruno Ribeiro, is a dashing and sturdy-voiced Ismaele and he is well supported by Elisabeth Kulman as Nabucco’s legitimate and more pleasant daughter, Fenena. But it is Gabriella Morigi who steals the limelight as Abigaille, Nabucco’s other evil daughter who, in vain, covets Ismaele (who only has eyes for Fenena) and Nabucco’s throne. Her acting is riveting; she not so much chews the scenery as devours it. Her singing is equally melodramatic, her projection not so much strong as occasionally overpowering and shrill. In many respects she probably rivals Maria Guleghina who according to other reviewers, shines in this role in the rival TDK and DG Nabucco DVDs. 

It is a sad fact and possibly a reflection of this Nabucco audience’s reactions that the strongest applause was reserved for the fireworks that followed. There are at least five other productions of Nabucco on DVD - the NVC Arts equivalent is preferred on DVD 0630 19390-2.

Ian Lace

 


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