Nabucco, Opera by G. Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi created his timeless classic Nabucco under dire conditions. Plagued by the untimely death of his wife and the failure of his opera Un giorno di regno in 1841, the then still young composer was ready to abandon his career in music. Luckily, the manager of Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, Bartolomeo Merelli, was convinced of Verdi’s talents and did not allow him to go into early retirement. Overcoming his personal and professional hardships, Verdi composed Nabucco relatively quickly. The premiere at Teatro alla Scala on 9 March 1842 was exactly what he needed: an indubitable success that put his name on the map. Nabucco has been a staple in the repertoire ever since, and Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence stages a true-to-form, exciting revival this season.
In line with Verdi’s grandeur, Nabucco tells an epic love story set in the times of the Old Testament. The Babylonian King Nebuchadrezzar II (whose Italianized name, Nabucodonosor, gives the opera its title) has just conquered Jerusalem, and his armies are pillaging the sacred city. Unbeknownst to him, his daughter Fenena is in love with the Israelite Ismaele, whom she got to know during his imprisonment in Babylon. However, Abigaille, Fenena’s half-sister, also has feelings for Ismaele and makes him a proposal: In exchange for his love, she will convince Nabucco not to destroy Jerusalem. When he turns her down, the love triangle takes dark political and personal proportions.
Through a series of vile intrigues, Abigaille assumes Jerusalem’s throne, while Fenena, Ismaele and Nabucco himself find themselves imprisoned and hopeless. In this critical moment, the dethroned Babylonian king turns his heart to the God of Israel, but will this be enough for justice, peace and love to triumph against Abigaille’s machinations? Out of his own hardship, Verdi created in Nabucco a uniquely life-affirming and enthralling stage work. At Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, keep your ears open for the enslaved Israelites’ chorus ‘Va, pensiero’ – one of the Maestro’s most memorable melodies and the tune, with which the mourning crowds bid him a last farewell on his funeral procession in 1901.