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
The Verona orchestra, too, is preferred; right from the beginning.
Their overture is dramatic and rhythmically vibrant.
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.
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.
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.