S&H Opera Review

VERDI Nabucco ENO at The Coliseum November 2000 - 23 February 2001

First The London Coliseum became a simulated building site for its Italian season. For Nabucco convention was turned upon its head again by lifting the orchestra (except for the violins) out of its pit onto the stage to become part of the action. Dressed in long coats and caps, the musicians made an uncomfortable picture and suggested uncannily Jews in concentration camps forced to perform - for our benefit.

With Nabucco Verdi contributed to the forging of Italy as a nation and political entity. The music's power 'lay in the sheer flexibility of association' (Jonathan Keates). After the Risorgimento, Verdi's Chorus of Hebrew Slaves became a sort of alternative Italian national anthem, its poignant feelings transferred to Italian slaves who sang its unforgettable tune.

The multiple resonances were framed with declamations in Hebrew by three confident boys, intoned from various parts of the auditorium. The performances on stage enveloped us all in an extraordinary atmosphere of collective inclusion - rarely can an early Verdi opera have made so profound an impression in London, and left one wondering if the proscenium arch is gone for ever?

Every part was well taken, Alastair Miles as Zaccaria (high Priest of the Hebrews), Richard Angas as the High Priest of Baal Lauren Flanigan, making her ENO debut, in a remarkable representation of Abigaille, who seizes power and behaves tyrannically, and Bruno Caproni as the ill fated King Nabucco, who was struck down with madness, but finally converts to Judaism, has the image of Baal destroyed and promises to rebuild the Temple. The chorus plays a leading role, and the ENO Chorus covered themselves in glory.

Conductor Michael Lloyd moved freely between pit and stage and the visibility of the musicians contributed to the vividness of David Pountney's daring and memorable direction in a staging, which interwove past, recent past and contemporary historical processes and aspirations. This is likely to be remembered as one of the great high points of the Verdi celebrations (see also Marc Bridle's celebration of the controversial staging of the Requiem) and a complete vindication of Stefanos Lazaridis's transformation of the space.

For further opportunities to catch this unmissable experience, check dates and ticket availability with ENO at http://www.eno.org/spring2000/nabucco.htm If you have seen it, you will not need me to suggest that a second visit (with several cast changes towards the end of the run) would be well warranted.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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