b>Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Nabucco - Drama lirico in four parts (1842) [123:26]
Nabucco - Ettore Bastianini (baritone); Abigaille - Mirella Parutto (soprano); Zaccaria - Ivo Vinco (bass); Ismaele - Luigi Ottolini (tenor); Fenena - Anna Maria Rota (mezzo); Gran Sacerdote - Renato Spagli (bass); Abdallo - Enzo Guagni (tenor); Anna - Ottavia Imer (soprano)
Orchestra and Chorus of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Bruno Bartoletti
rec. live, Florence, 26 August 1961
no text or translation included
IDIS 6630/31 [73:07 + 50:19]
The catalogues have many fine studio recordings of Nabucco and any admirer of the opera will surely go first to one of them. However given that its character is essentially one of drive and energy, with the characters painted largely in primary colours, a live recording may nonetheless be able to get closer to the heart of the work than can a more studied version recorded in shorter lengths without the benefit of the sheer cumulative effect that can be achieved in the theatre. I have certainly listened to and usually enjoyed a number of such live versions whilst recognising that some of the many more subtle moments and effects that Verdi devised can be muted or entirely lost.
That does indeed apply at times here, but in this case the set’s virtues are more than sufficient to outweigh that aspect. Usually recordings of this opera are dominated by the Abigaille, Nabucco’s supposed daughter, for whom Verdi wrote music which graphically encapsulates her fierce will and ambition. Mirella Parutto, an artist I have not heard before, is certainly as equal to the difficulties of the role as are most of its recorded exponents and she makes a very positive impression. However she is partnered by an even more magnetic performance of the title role by Ettore Bastianini. His firm and distinctive voice
, range of expression and vivid diction are unique in my experience in recorded live performances. I would rate this performance as at least equal to that of Gobbi on his studio set, and superior to almost all others I have heard. Ivo Vinco as Zaccaria may not have the ideal fierceness that this Old Testament prophet requires but he does not really disappoint; nor do any of the other characters. Bruno Bartoletti leads a performance that has for the most part all the necessary drive and much of the subtlety that the work does have. He really understands how to shape and project the rhythmic figures that underlie so much of the work. Surprisingly the only disappointment I felt was in Va pensiero, that most surging and effective of Verdi’s choruses, where there is some sense of caution and point-making. Elsewhere however both chorus and orchestra give idiomatic and energetic performances.
The recording has most of the usual defects of its date and origin; odd balance, occasional distortion, stage noises, faults of ensemble and so on. If this sort of thing bothers you it would be best to avoid this set although IDIS seem overall to have minimised these harmful effects. The recording has been issued previously by several other companies but I have been unable to compare the present transfer with them. IDIS only provide cast and track lists, without even a synopsis let alone a libretto in any language. In view of this and of very strong competition from studio recordings even in the lowest price ranges this is perhaps unlikely to be anyone’s first choice as a recording of the opera. The set is nonetheless worth having for the stunning performance of the title role, which for once does dominate the opera, and for the exciting and idiomatic performances of the other singers and the orchestra.

John Sheppard

Worth having for the stunning performance of the title role and the exciting and idiomatic performances of the other singers.