World premiere: March 9, 1842, Teatro alla Scala in Milano
Premiere date for this performance at the Bucharest National Opera House: October 31, 1987
Performances in the 2015-2016 season:
February 13, 2016
March 27, 2016
May 19, 2016
Running time: 19h00 – 22h00 (including two intermissions)
Conductor: Vlad Conta/ Iurie Florea
Artistic direction: Hero Lupescu
Set and costume designer: George Doroșenco
Choreography: Doina Andronache
Chorus master: Stelian Olariu
Assistant for artistic direction: Cristina Cotescu
Assistant for choreography: Florica Stănescu
Cast for the 2015-2016 season:
Nabucco: Oleg Ionese (guest)
Ismaele: Liviu Indricău
Zaccaria: Horia Sandu
Abigaille: Sorina Munteanu
Fenena: Sorana Negrea/ Oana Andra
High priest of Baal: Iustinian Zetea
Abdallo: Valentin Racoveanu
Anna: Andreea Novac
Ballet soloists: Isabella Măciucă, Virgil Ciocoiu, Narcis Niculae
→ Bruno Bartoletti, conductor / Tito Gobbi (Nabucco), Danica Mastilovic (Abigaille), Alfonso La Morena (Ismaele), Boris Christoff (Zaccaria), Anna Maria Rota (Fenena). Chorus and orchestra of the Chicago Lyric Opera. 1963. Omega Opera Archive 1109, Live.
→ Gianandrea Gavazzeni, conductor / Giangiacomo Guelfi, Elena Suliotis, Gianni Raimondi, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Gloria Lane. Chorus and orchestra of Teatro alla Scala in Milano. 1966. Nuova Era 2222/23, Live.
→ Ruslan Raichev, conductor / Stoyan Popov, Ghena Dimitrova, Jordan Znamenov, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Adriana Stamenova. Chorus and Orchestra of the Sofia National Opera. 1968. Mike Richter Audio Encyclopedia AE 210, Live.
→ Sir Colin Davis, conductor / Peter Glossop, Elena Souliotis, Ermanno Mauro, David Ward, Maria Pellegrini. Chorus and orchestra of the ROH „Covent Garden” in London. 1972. Oriel Music Society OMS 144/2, Live.
→ Riccardo Muti, conductor / Matteo Manuguerra, Renata Scotto, Veriano Luchetti, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Elena Obraztsova. Ambrosian Opera Chorus şi Philharmonia Orchestra in London. 1977-78. EMI CDS 7 47488-8, Studio.
→ Nello Santi, conductor / Sherrill Milnes, Grace Bumbry, Carlos (Carlo) Cossutta, Ruggero Raimondi, Viorica Cortez. Chorus and orchestra of Théâtre de l'Opéra in Paris. 1979. Legendary Recordings LR 154-3, Live. Video version: Dreamlife DMVB 67, Live.
→ Giuseppe Sinopoli, conductor / Piero Cappuccilli, Ghena Dimitrova, Plácido Domingo, Evgheni Nesterenko, Lucia Valentini-Terrani. Chorus and orchestra Deutsche Oper Berlin, 1982. Deutsche Grammophon DG 410 512-2, Studio.
→ Anton Guadagno, conductor / Piero Cappuccilli, Linda Roark (Strummer), Nunzio Todisco, Roberto Scandiuzzi, Martha Senn. Chorus and orchestra, Arena di Verona. 1992. Tring GI 078/2, Live.
→ Nello Santi, conductor / Renato Bruson, Susan Neves, Gian Luca Zampieri, Giacomo Prestia, Tatiana Gorbunova. Chorus and orchestra L´Opéra de Monte Carlo. 2002. House of Opera CDWW 1137, Live.
The show “Nabucco”, directed by Hero Lupescu, is one of the long-lasting creations in the history of the Bucharest National Opera. A surprising fact happened in the history of the institution. Although Giuseppe Verdi was one of the most adored composers and his works entered our country very soon after the world premiere, the opera “Nabucco” was ignored for a long time. In the season 1987-1988, in order to repair this undesirable mistake, the staff of the institution was involved body and soul in the new staging, in which some of the greatest theatre soloists from that time participated. The show was an extraordinary success, being performed with full house 19 times in the season following the premiere, being the favourite of the audience out of the 33 titles of the theatre. Moreover, it remained in the repertoire of the Bucharest National Opera for 25 years!
A complete professional, Hero Lupescu created generations of professionals, many of them ending up on the list of the greatest Romanian lyrical artists. On the other hand, in his youth he had the chance to work with the last representatives of a golden generation of singers, from whom he learned and passed further on the respect for the stage, for the profession and for the audience.
Mihai Cosma – musicologist, music critic,
“The Season of Separations”, Evenimentul Zilei, 9 October 2007
A Dream of Freedom
“This is the opera with which my artistic career really begins”, wrote Verdi in 1879, in “An Autobiographical Sketch”, about “Nabucco”, a work composed when he was 29 years old. Inspired from sources such as the biblical story of Nebuchadnezzar, the play from 1836, written by Auguste Anicet-Bourgeois and Francis Cornue, as well as the ballet adapted from the play by Antonio Cortese, the opera – named initially “Nebuchadnezzar” – brings to attention a story about slavery, defeat and the Hebrews’ exile to Babylon by king Nabucodonosor. With its theme, “Nabucco” troubled the public at the premiere in 1842, at La Scala in Milan, by interpreting the message of the opera as an urge for battle against the Austrians, who were ruling at that time over the entire Italian people. “The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves”, one of the most known choral opera interpretations, became a real national hymn, and Verdi became, unwillingly, a leader in the struggle for freedom.
Defeated by the armies of Nabucco, the king of Babylon, the Hebrews complain for their fate. The High Priest, Zaccaria, appears in front of them, bringing Fenena with him in the temple. He encourages the believers by urging them to pray: “have no fear; whoever prays, shall not perish”, he said, revealing the identity of the young woman who accompanies him, none other than the daughter of the enemy king, Nabucco, now their prisoner.
Ismaele enters the stage, announcing the arrival of the enemy troupes. The young man has been in love with Fenena since he was an emissary for the Hebrew and presented himself to the king’s court in Babylon; incarcerated at his command, he had found help from Fenena. Now it is his turn to give her back her freedom. Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Abigaille, the supposed daughter of Nabucco. The sight of the two makes her jealous. She wishes for Ismaele’s love (“I require your love and thus you may save your people”). Her words can’t find a way to the young man’s heart.
Nabucco arrives at the temple and Zaccaria threatens him: the profanation of the holy place can cost him his daughter’s life. The king laughs about it: Zaccaria turns his dagger against Fenena, but Ismaele stops him from touching her. The Hebrew throw a curse over him, accusing him of betrayal.
The Hebrew have been enslaved in Babylon. Gone to war, Nabucco entrusted the regency to Fenena. Abigaille is tortured by jealousy; she heard certain rumours; it seems that Fenena is not the natural daughter of the king, but only a slave. The reality is another: she, not Fenena, is the slave they’re talking about. When she finds out the truth, her anger knows no limits, only her memories of Ismaele calm her down. The High Priest announces Fenena’s decision to release the Hebrew. Gathered in a room at the palace, the prisoners pray with Zaccaria; and then they find out that Fenena converted to their faith. Abdallo brings them the news of Abigaille’s plot; she wishes to get rid of Fenena. In the city there are rumours about the king’s death.
Accompanied by the guards and the noblemen of the court, Abigaille arrives to take Fenena’s crown and power. Suddenly, Nabucco appears and he forces Zaccaria and Fenena to bow to him as to a God. A lightning strikes him out of nowhere. With his mind lost, the king is lamenting incoherently. The sky punished the profanation of the name of God, says Zaccaria. Taking the crown, Abigaille runs, threatening her enemies.
Abigaille became queen; she is supported by the priests who now request, by their leader’s voice, the death of the Hebrew prisoners, including Fenena.
Protected by the faithful Abdallo, Nabucco appears. Insane, he doesn’t recognise his daughter any more. Taking advantage of the situation, Abigaille convinces him to place the seal on the death sentence of the Hebrew, among whom there are the two lovers Ismaele and Fenena. The Hebrew prisoners complain of their fate and their lost country. Zaccaria encourages them, foretelling the proximate release and the fall of Babylon.
Nabucco is a prisoner and he suffers. He has terrible nightmares; he thinks he hears the screams of the crowd reclaiming Fenena’s death. Now, his dream becomes reality. Released by the same faithful Abdallo, he rushes to help his daughter. At the execution place, Fenena prepares for death. Arrived in time, Nabucco stops the sacrificial ceremony.
Full of remorse, Abigaille commits suicide by poisoning herself. With the last of her strength, she comes to ask for forgiveness. She requests Ismaele’s protection for Fenena, and to Nabucco, mercy for the two young people. “You, God, the wisest, banish evil and don’t curse me” are her last words.