Giuseppe Verdi • Nabucco
Dramma lirico in four parts (seven scenes)
by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Libretto by Temistocle Solera (1815-1878) based on Antonio Cortesi’s historical ballet Nabucodonosor (1838) and Auguste-Anicet Bourgeois and Francis Cornu’s play Nabuchodonosor (1836)
With German and English surtitles
Duration of the opera approx. 2 hours and 30 minutes.
- 31 August 2013, 16:00
- 01 September 2013, 16:00
Print programme (PDF)
“With this opera my artistic career may be said to have begun”, Verdi remarked in later years about his third opera Nabucco. The premiere at La Scala in Milan on 9 March 1842 did indeed bring the young man from Busseto such an overwhelming triumph that from then onwards he had a secure place in the circle of leading Italian opera composers.
Nabucodonosor (as the opera was originally called) tells the story of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II, who with his troops conquers Jerusalem, destroys the Solomonian temple and ultimately declares himself to be the sole god. Punishment follows hot on the heels of such hubris: Nabucco goes mad, and is only redeemed when, in desperation, he turns to faith in Jehova, the god of the Hebrews. Abigaille goes through a similar development – from thirst for revenge and aspirations of power to remorse and redemption in faith; with this character Verdi created a new type of soprano which demands both vocal power and agility from the singer. Abigaille, allegedly Nabucco’s first-born daughter, discovers that in reality her forefathers were slaves. This gives her all the more reason for wanting to take over rule. Abigaille is a rival to her younger sister Fenena not only for power but also for the love of the Hebrew Ismaele.
Nabucco is more than just a story about the fate of individuals; it is the story of a people. Librettist Temistocle Solera portrayed the path of the Hebrews from suppression to freedom in the context of four large-scale tableaux which each allocate a prominent role to the choir. As regards the dominance of the choir Solera and Verdi followed on from Rossini’s biblical opera Mosè in Egitto which was also a model in other aspects. Precisely in comparison with this model the overwhelming newness of Nabucco becomes clearly apparent: the power of the musical language which is effective by means of strong contrasts, the melodic vitality and rousing rhythmic conciseness, but above all the inner dedication with which Verdi set the libretto to music. “Rossini and his generation stand back from the action which they portrait; Verdi is a participant.” (Julian Budden) This identifying dedication is expressed especially in the choruses, first and foremost in the famous “Va, pensiero, sull’ali dorate”. For Verdi’s contemporaries this indeed sounded like an appeal to see in the Hebrews the Italian people longing for freedom and independence – and to make Verdi the composer of the Risorgimento.
Translated by Elizabeth Mortimer