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Nabucco, an opera by Giuseppe Verdi on his 175th birth anniversary

Published: 2017.04.05 - 15:56:28   /  /  Miguel Darío García Porto  /  translated by  Luis E. Amador Dominguez  /

Undoubtedly, if we think of the Nabucco opera, the "Va pensiero" choir comes to mind, a beautiful page of classical music that, although it is heard on countless occasions, does not lose its enormous dramatic force.

However, this work is not limited to that famous choir of slaves, but it is an interesting drama with music by maestro Giuseppe Verdi, which palpably shows the rich contrast of the characters immersed between love and power.

This is the third opera of the Italian composer and was released on March 9, 1842, exactly 175 years ago, at La Scala in Milan, with Giuseppina Strepponi in the role of Abigail.

The lyrical tragedy had the libretto in Italian by Temistocle Solera and was based on the Old Testament and the text Nabuchodonosor, by Francis Cornue and Anicète Bourgeois.

The play, with four acts, takes place in the cities of Jerusalem and Babylon in 566 BC, at a time when the Hebrews had suffered a hard defeat by the forces of Nabucco, king of Babylon, who plundered the city.

Fenena, the daughter of the invading ruler and Abigail, a supposed daughter of Nabucco, are in love with Ismael, who is the nephew of the King of Jerusalem; Abigail learns that she is not the daughter of Nabucco, but an adopted slave and she vows revenge.

The Babylonian leader, in an act of pride, proclaims himself not only King, but also God of the Hebrews, and lightning punishes his irreverence, causing his crown to fall. This event is being taken advantage of by Abigail, who proclaims herself absolute sovereign, condemning the Hebrews to death.

Captive and chained, the Hebrew evoke with nostalgia the lost homeland, it is the moment of the famous choir "Va Pensiero". The high priest of Jerusalem, Zaccaria, approaches and tries to comfort them, telling them that the end of Babylon is coming. Fenena has converted to Judaism and is led to the gallows.

Nabucco tries to come to her aid, the king orders the destruction of the temple of the Assyrian idol and decrees immediate freedom for the Hebrews. Abigail appears repentant for her bad deeds, has poisoned and comes to beg forgiveness, and she collapses and dies, while Zaccaria crowns Nabucco as king of the Jews.

It is important to note that in the opera Nabucco, the choir is an individual character, musically well worked and with enough technical difficulty, as it demands innumerable outings and movements on stage that gives the opera strength and dynamism.

Of the protagonists, it should be emphasized that at the time it was written thinking about the performer who was going to premiere the role, so the vocal demands fall on Abigail, written for Giuseppina Strepponi, the future wife of maestro Giuseppe Verdi.

Abigail needs a great soprano voice, incisive in the highs and with high scenic ability, but also warmth, which conveys the feelings necessary to move.

It is the only psychologically complex character of the opera, with changes in expression and character that make her more real, more human.

As is presumably not easy to get a dramatic soprano that can be measured with the ruthlessness of the evil Abigail. That role has been considered to be the fall of many singers.

It was the bete noir of María Callas at the beginning of her career; she performed it only three times and recorded it live, only once in 1949, it is possible to hear in the recording that "Va pensiero" was interrupted by many cries, but the choir continued.

The success of the opera lasts until today. Although not performed as many times as other operas by Verdi, however, it is amongst the most represented operas in the world opera repertoire.

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