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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Nabucco, Dramma Lirico in four acts
Nabucco, King of Babylon - George Gagnidze (baritone)
Zaccaria, High Priest of the Hebrews - Rafał Siwek (bass)
Abigaille, slave, believed to be the eldest daughter of Nabucco - Susanna Branchini (soprano)
Fenena, true daughter of Nabucco and loved by Ismaele - Nino Surguladze (soprano)
Ismaele, Hebrew in love with Fenena - Rubens Pelizzari (tenor)
High Priest of Baal - Nicol˛ Ceriani (bass)
Abdalla, an officer in the service of Nabucco - Paolo Antognetti (tenor)
Anna, Zaccaria’s sister - Elena Borin (soprano)
Orchestra and Chorus of the Arena Verona/Daniel Oren
Director and Costumes designer, Arnaud Bernard
rec. live, Arena Verona, Italy, August 2017
Audio, PCM Stereo and HD Master Audio 5.1. Video, 1 BD50 1081i full HD. Colour 16:9
Booklet notes and synopsis in English, Italian, French and German.
Subtitles: Italian, English, German, French, Korean and Japanese
BELAIR CLASSICS Blu-ray BAC448 [137 mins]

Opera productions from the Arena Verona have in the past been a spectacle and this performance is no different with its skirmishers and violent revolt against the oppressors as well as canon shot and explosions. Instead of biblical period Jerusalem and Babylon, the action takes place in Italy during the Italian Wars of Unification or the Risorgimento, with the director Arnaud Bernard, stating in his booklet essay that he took his inspiration from Luchino Visconti’s 1954 film Senso, which dealt with similar situations as his production. Here Arnaud Bernard uses the fašade of La Scala as the Temple in Jerusalem, this revolves to show the interior of the imperial palace of Vienna which doubles in Acts 3 and 4 as the interior of the opera house when the Italians in the guise of the Jews have been forced to take part in a performance of the opera, so an opera within the opera. This I find confusing and nonsensical as the action bears no reflection to the text, the performers singing of being in Jerusalem and Babylon when the opera in this production is clearly set in Milan. And this despite Charles Osborne in his book The Complete Operas of Verdi stating that “It was easy for the Milanese governed by the Austrians to see themselves as Jews suffering under the Babylonian yoke; they made the connection, and made it vociferously.” So, whilst there is a historical context, the way Arnaud Bernard has gone about things does not sit well with me.

This is an early opera, his third to be precise, but as Verdi himself put it that “With this opera it is fair to say my artistic career began.” Thus, it is not the usual Verdi fare for me, I much prefer the composers more dramatic later output than his earlier operas and I had hoped that this production wold spark a greater interest in this earlier period of his output, sadly not - and not just because of the setting. Some of the singing is a bit below par too. In the title role George Gagnidze is OK, although at times he seems a little stretched and resorts to an unattractive vibrato. Susanna Branchini is for me the oustanding performer here, with her portrayal of Abigaille being strong, although there are times that she turns and sings to the audience rather than the person her text should be directed to. Rafał Siwek has a nice bass voice whilst Nino Surguladze is a little week in her projection, especially when singing opposite Rubens Pelizzari who is also less than ideal. This is a real shame as the production is well acted throughout, I only wish that more emphasis had been put on the singing. Of course, this could be down to the acoustic, but then I have seen other productions from this venue and I have enjoyed them more. For me the chorus are the star vocalists here and not just in the famous bit, they are consistent throughout and are ably backed by the orchestra.

This is my first venture into a purely visual performance of Nabucco, and I am sad to say there is not much here to make me venture into repeated watching of this or any other early Verdi opera, I don’t want to watch over two and a quarter hours of opera just for the chorus and a couple of solo performers when the rest are not up to strength. I dare say some Verdi enthusiasts might find this production appealing, but I am sure there are better DVD and Blu-Ray productions out there to explore, but I for one would find it difficult to recommend this version.

Stuart Sillitoe

Previous review: Robert Farr



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