Nabucco, Opera by G. Verdi
There are works in every composer’s catalogue that mark a turning point in their career. For Giuseppe Verdi, Nabucco was just that. The historical epic, sourced from the Old Testament itself, clad in the maestro’s unmistakable dramatic orchestration and infectious melodies, once and for all established Verdi as one of the big names in Italian opera. The debut performance at Teatro alla Scala in Milan on 9 March 1842, under the original title Nabucodonosor, was a true jubilation and an affirmation of Verdi’s talent and skill. On the storied stage of the historic Arena di Verona, Nabucco is even more enthralling and impressive, and the trials and tribulations of Babylonian kings and Jewish slaves gain a level of realism that is transporting. To make the most of your time in Verona, your ticket to Nabucco includes a sightseeing tour, which you can take either on the day of the performance or a day before or after it. Boarding a mini-train, you get to see the prettiest sights in the City of Love. Music, drama, history and beauty all rolled into one!
Nabucco takes its title from the name of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, the conqueror of Jerusalem and the enslaver of the Jewish people. The plot derives from several biblical books of the Old Testament. Some 19th-century works, most notably a play by Auguste Anicet-Bourgeois and Francis Cornu, and its ballet adaptation by Antonio Cortesi, also served as important sources of inspiration to librettist Temistocle Solera. He cleverly combined the historical and political plot with a tender love story – a formula that Verdi used to great effect on several occasions. Nabucco opens with the impending siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonian armies. Zaccaria, the high priest of the Jews, still hopes for peace because he is holding Babylonian King Nabucco’s daughter Fenena as hostage. Ismaele, Zaccaria’s nephew, is entrusted with guarding her. Unbeknownst to anyone involved, Fenena and Ismaele are lovers. When Nabucco’s older daughter Abigaille discovers their romance, she embarks on a mission to break up the couple and claim Ismaele for herself. Jealousy, religion, political power and parental and romantic love are all put to the ultimate test.
Verdi’s score for Nabucco is as powerful and impactful as the opera’s underlying story. Among many great numbers, the Hebrew slaves’ chorus ‘Va, pensiero, sull’ali dorate’ is the undoubted standout piece and traditionally serves as an encore at performances. When Verdi passed away in 1901, the multitudes of mourners who turned up to his funeral procession spontaneously erupted into that song, too. To match the fantastic music and gripping narrative of Nabucco, you can take another deep historical dive – into the old town of Verona. Your ticket includes a 25-minute ‘trenino’ ride that covers major sights such as: the Roman gates to the city; the two famous castles, Castelvecchio and Castel San Pietro; places of worship like the Cathedral of Verona, the Basilica di Sant’Anastasia, and the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Lourdes; and a scenic ride down the Adige riverbank, to name but few. The train tours leave every half an hour, packing a splendid overview of what the City of Love can offer.