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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Nabucco - Dramma lirico in quattro parti (1842) [137:00]
Nabucco - Leo Nucci (baritone); Ismaele - Bruno Ribeiro (tenor); Zaccaria - Riccardo Zanellato (bass); Abigaille - Dimitra Theodossiou (soprano); Fenena - Ann Maria Chiuri (mezzo-soprano); High Priest of Baal - Alessandro Spina (bass); Abdallo - Mauro Buffoli (tenor); Anna - Cristina Giannelli (soprano)
Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Regio di Parma/Michele Mariotti
NTSC 16:9; PCM Stereo & DTS 5.1; Region 0
Subtitles in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Japanese
C MAJOR 720408 [147:00]

This is the first of an enterprising series of Verdi’s complete operas filmed in the Teatro Regio in Parma, an opera house proud of its associations with the composer. Its size, shape and architectural character are just right for most of the composer’s works and, despite my reservations about the present issue, I look forward to the rest of the series. 

was Verdi’s third opera but his first major success when it was given at La Scala in 1842. Although it is now best known outside the opera house for the great chorus Va, pensiero there is scarcely a dull moment throughout and in a good performance the sheer drive of the work grips the listener throughout. That is largely the case here, due more to the musical performance than the production. Fortunately the two main roles - Nabucco and Abigaille - are taken by two outstanding artists who are convincing both musically and dramatically. Leo Nucci in particular makes the most of the title role, displaying the real authority that it needs. Even he looks at times a shade desperate in a production which gives him little to work with, and allows little opportunity for real interaction with the other singers. Fortunately this does not apply to his big duet with Abigaille in Part Three which has real tension. Dimitra Theodossiou has the necessary ability to take vocal charge of proceedings here and elsewhere. The role calls for a singer who gives the impression of being a force of nature and too many sopranos see this as an excuse for singing that is wild and approximate. That is not the case here. Riccardo Zanellato has the necessary vocally imposing voice as the fierce prophet Zaccaria, but lacks the essential dramatic forcefulness required, although admittedly the feeble threatening gestures he is allowed in this production were always likely to have minimal impact. Anna Maria Chiuri is a more positive than usual Fenena but Bruno Ribeiro as Ismaele makes him seem even more of a wimp than usual. The production generally seems to consist of little more than getting the characters and chorus on stage and positioning them so that they can aim their voices at the audience. In addition in an opera about the conflict between the Hebrews and Babylonians it would have been helpful to the audience and more productive of dramatic effect if these two groups had been distinguished by more than the wearing or otherwise of shawls and had been allowed to interact more positively with each other. I dislike productions which impose an alien concept on an opera but in this case there seems to be little positive effort at imposing any concept at all. The drama of the opera evaporates visually into a series of not very interesting stage pictures.
Fortunately for the success of this Verdi series the chorus and orchestra, and especially the latter, are amongst the best things about this performance, and I look forward to hearing them in more of these operas. There is a ten minute “bonus” telling the plot of the opera and a brief introduction to it and synopsis in the booklet. I applaud the intention of filming Verdi’s complete operas but hope that the rest of the series adds more to recordings already available.
John Sheppard