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Nabucco was Verdi's first international success as an opera composer and his first step toward becoming a national hero in Italy. Awkward moments show that he still has a lot to learn about theatrical technique, but there is lots of vigor, abundant melody, and occasionally a flash of genius. One magnificent chorus, "Va, pensiero," expresses the homesickness of Hebrew slaves in their Babylonian captivity. It became the unofficial anthem of the Risorgimento, 19th-century Italy's struggle for freedom and unity, and was sung spontaneously in 1901 by thousands of mourners lining the streets for Verdi's funeral procession. It still brings out the best in any Italian chorus, and it is the peak moment in this production--one of the few times when the chorus deserves to be seen as well as heard. Otherwise, we have here a fairly average evening in a provincial Italian opera house. There are capable but not riveting performances by Renato Bruson as Nebuchadnezzar, who conquers Israel, proclaims himself God, goes mad, and loses his throne, and Lauren Flanigan as Abigail, his wicked daughter who seizes the throne and plans to commit genocide. Drawbacks include an uneven supporting cast, slipshod camera work, and poor recorded sound.
The visuals do capture some of the opera's epic scope, but until a better video edition comes along, most Verdi fans would probably be happier with one of the excellent audio recordings, perhaps the one conducted by Giuseppe Sinopoli on Deutsche Grammophon. --Joe McLellanFrom the Back Cover:
Nabuconodosor: Renato Bruson
Ismaele: Maurizio Frusoni
Zaccaria: Carlo Colombara
Abigaille: Lauren Flanigan
Fenena: Monica Bacelli
Theatrical director: Fabio Sparvoli
TV director: Walter Licastro
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