I have always been very fond of opera and of Verdi, and while Nabucco is not my favourite of all his operas(my top 5 are La Traviata, Don Carlo, Otello, Aida and Rigoletto) it is his first masterpiece in my opinion. The story and characters(Abaigaille aside perhaps) are maybe not the most compelling of all characters in Verdi's operas, however the music particularly Va Pansiero and Nabucco's aria and cabaletta Dio Di Guida e Cabaletta is magnificent.
Previous to this pretty spectacular 2002 Met production, I saw two productions of this opera, one from 1985 with Renato Bruson and Ghena Dimitrova and one from 1979 with Sherrill Milnes and Grace Bumbry. Bruson is my favourite of the Nabuccos likewise with Dimitrova as Abaigaille, while Milnes is one of my all-time favourite singing-actors non-stop, but when it comes to staging this production is my favourite.
The staging here is both exciting and daring. The action on stage goes at a brisk pace, while in one scene there is even half the stage set on fire. The orchestra play movingly and marvellously, the chorus are simply breathtaking particularly at the end of Va Pansiero and James Levine conducts with a very sure hand. The production even looks spectacular, the sets are huge and almost rivals the grandeur of 1989's Aida.
I loved the use of massive staircases, columns on a revolving stage and even giant statues. And the colours look amazing on the DVD, while the picture quality, sound and video directing are top notch too. The costumes are mostly fine, Zaccaria's were a little disappointing being rather unflattering, but Abigaille's are very regal.
The performances are excellent on the whole. Samuel Ramey is not at his best here, bearing in mind this is a singer who excelled in roles like Don Giovanni, Escamillo and King Phillip, but once he warms up he sings and acts very well. Gwyn Hoghes-Jones and Wendy White are very good and both have great voices. Juan Pons is a wonderful singer, with a rich and inspiring voice, but apart from a moving Dio Di Guida e Cabaletta his acting can be unremarkable at times. Stealing the show however, in perhaps the most demanding soprano role of any Verdi opera, is Maria Guleghina, who shows a big range complete with flexible singing and for me being very fearless she was the best actress of the production.
Overall, this is a Nabucco to be proud of. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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