Notes and Editorial Reviews
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On the occasion of the 200th birthday of Giuseppe Verdi, Teatro Regio di Parma and Unitel Classica have joined forces to create a truly unique project – for the first time ever, and just in time for the composer’s 200th brithday, Verdi’s Operatic oeuvre, which comprises the labour of more than 50 years, will be available in High Definition and Surround Sound. All of the composer’s 26 Operas, as well as the Requiem – which is closely related to the Operas – will be performed and audio-visually recorded in and
around Parma, and released on DVD and Blu-ray. Verdi’s Nabucco is presented here for the first time on Blu-ray. Staged by Daniele Abbado, bonus features include a 10 minute introduction of the opera.
"As last year, the musical direction was entrusted to Michele Mariotti, whose immersion in the score has deepened further allowing him to provide a very remarkable reading. Simply seeing the warmth that all the singers offered him from the stage was enough realize that this young maestro has managed to develop genuine team work producing very good results. His interpretation of “Va pensiero” was unique: a very personal reading, slow, solemn and moving from which the Teatro Regio Chorus rewarded him with spectacular and truly unusual performance. I had never heard a chorus singing this passage at such a pianissimo complete with real diminuendos. This only can be done by an exceptional choir... Similarly, the music from of the Teatro Regio Orchestra was everything to be expected from this excellent group. The protagonist Nabucco was Leo Nucci, the Verdi Festival’s true star... Abigaille was the Greek soprano Dimitra Theodossiou... The cheers she received were not even true cheers, but spectacular screams, so loud that it seemed as if her life might be at risk. At her final bow she was almost completely covered by flowers, thrown from the upper floors, with none left at all for any other artist... As might be expected there was a completely full house for this almost gala performance. 'Va pensiero' was encored at popular request and at the final bows, there were triumphs for Leo Nucci, Dimitra Theodossiou and Michele Mariotti." -- José M. Irurzun, MusicWeb International
reviewing a live performance of this production
Nabucco – Leo Nucci Ismaele – Bruno Ribeiro
Zaccaria – Riccardo Zanellato
Abigaille – Dimitra Theodossiou
Fenena – Annamaria Chiuri
Il Gran Sacerdote di Belo – Alessandro Spina
Abdallo – Mauro Buffoli
Anna – Cristina Giannelli
Teatro Regio di Parma Chorus and Orchestra
(chorus master: Martino Faggiani)
Michele Mariotti, conductor
Daniele Abbado, staging
Caroline Lang, stage director
Luigi Perego, set and costume designer
Valero Alfier, lighting designer
Recorded live from the Teatro Regio di Parma, 2009
- Introduction to Nabucco
Picture format: 1080i High Definition
Sound format: PCM Stereo / DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Japanese
Running time: 137 mins (opera) + 10 mins (bonus)
No. of Discs: 1 (Blu-ray)
Michele Mariotti, cond; Leo Nucci (
); Dimitra Theodossiou (
); Bruno Ribeiro (
); Riccardo Zanellato (
); Anna Maria Chiuri (
); Alessandro Spina (
High Priest of Baal
); Teatro Regio di Parma O & Ch
C MAJOR 720504 (Blu-ray: 137:00 opera, 10:00, bonus) Live: Parma 2009
After the precipitous failure of his opera buffa
Un giorno di regno
, and the recent deaths of his young wife and small son, Giuseppe Verdi was emotionally shattered and had to be reluctantly coaxed back to work by Milan’s La Scala intendant, Bartolemeo Merelli. Verdi himself made much of this in his own often over-romanticized accounts, saying he had quit the business entirely and never wanted to look at another libretto, but in actuality, what else could the young composer do? He was heavily in debt, could not make a proper living as a musician in his hometown of Busseto, and was still under contract with the prestigious Milanese opera house to produce two more operas. Opera was where fame and fortune lay in Italy. We will never know for sure, but I am of the opinion that Verdi, though shaken by his failure, never really lost total confidence in his own ability to do the work and make a success of it. Whatever the case, Merelli was patient and understanding, never losing his own faith in the young maestro, and fortunately, he had just the right libretto to lure Verdi back to work. It was
penned by La Scala house poet, Temistocle Solera, and rejected earlier by the older and better known Prussian composer Otto Nicolai. The story tells of the conquest and captivity of the Jews in Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar (Nabucco) and the nationalistic strivings of a whole people to get their country back and regain their freedom. This must have plucked a sympathetic string or two in the heart of the young Italian nationalist Verdi, and a good thing for us it did.
With the composition of
the music began to get noticeably better. Verdi tightened the dramatic pacing, began to write more effective set pieces and began changing the choral pieces and ensembles into his own unique style rather than imitating his predecessors.
is still musically uneven, and a bit of a one-hit opera, but that one hit, the choral hymn “Va, pensiero” is a monster gorilla of a hit, at one time the unofficial anthem of Italian nationalism and beloved by most Italians (and most opera lovers) to this day. There is also some quite good music for the baritone Nabucco, the bass Zaccaria, and the dramatic soprano Abigaille, a few exciting ensembles, and another well-written chorus or two to mark Verdi’s passage into the ranks of master craftsmen.
This set, from the Teatro Regio in Parma, recorded in 2009, is the third in the Tutto Verdi project overseen by the Parma opera house in partnership with C Major. The goal is to present on Blu-ray disc all of Verdi’s operas in honor of his 200th birthday this year. I have also reviewed sets Nos. 1 and 2 this month, and the results are mixed so far. The Parma forces seem to do well enough in Verdi’s more obscure works, but they will have to step it up to be truly competitive in the more popular operas such as this one.
takes place in both Jerusalem and various locales in Babylon, but Parma only gives us one unit-set. It starts out as a monolithic wall with pillars to the sides for the Jerusalem scene (the wall of the temple?), then three panels drop out to give us three attractively framed panels of activity above stage level and a set of stairs in front to encompass all the action in Babylon. No hanging gardens, unfortunately. Costumes are generically biblical for the principals, but vaguely modern for the chorus with much use of shawls and yarmulkes. It looks like Jewish on the cheap to go along with Babylon on the cheap, but all of it works well enough. The king, Nabucco, is sung by veteran baritone Leo Nucci who has sung this role often enough to perform it in his sleep. Which, on occasion, is just what it looks like he is doing. Nucci’s voice is still fit enough at age 68, and he sings pretty well here, but his acting is a bit of the old school, with broad gestures, large facial expressions, and exaggerated body positions. You get the impression Nucci takes the same schtick from production to production. The Zaccaria of Riccardo Zanellato is first-rate. He has the proper magisterial heft to his bass instrument to sound like a revered religious authority and the proper gravitas to bring the role off in excellent fashion. His fine bass singing often carries the others. Dimitra Theodossiou as Abigaille has plenty of steel in her big voice as the role requires, and plenty of screech in her high notes, which it doesn’t. She sings pretty well in moderate range and does provide a highlight or two, when Verdi isn’t driving her up above the stave. The tenor role of Ismaele and soprano role of Fenena are smaller parts, handled adequately here by Bruno Ribeiro and Anna Maria Chiuri, respectively, although both have a tendency to wander from the pitch. The Priest of Baal has a confirmed wobble but doesn’t sing much. Chorus and orchestral forces of the Teatro Regio are surprisingly good sounding, here performing under the baton of Michele Mariotti. The big hit tune for the chorus is sung very well, almost like they’d heard it before.
There are some 12 or so other video sets of
still obtainable at one Internet source or another, as I said, the competition ramps up. Of these, I have seen only the Metropolitan Opera set from 2000, which is spoiled for me by the poor singing of Samuel Ramey as Zaccaria. We are given more sets from the Met production (but still no hanging gardens), and the Met seems to have a better stock of biblical clothing. Juan Pons takes on the role of the king.
is somewhat of a stand-and-deliver opera, and Pons stands and delivers with the best, any noticeable acting skills missing. Maria Guleghina, like Theodossiou, is also a big-voiced soprano, but at least in 2000 she had a nice secure rein on her powerful top notes and out sings the Abigaille on this set. Guleghina, like Nucci, sings this opera often, she has appeared on several live recordings and on three of the videos. Of course with the Met you also get the fine chorus and orchestra, here under artistic director James Levine, but in this instance at least, they do not noticeably outperform the Parma forces on the C Major Video.
If you are looking for the ideal video representation of
so am I, and this Parma production probably isn’t it. Both it and the Met recording have their flaws, but both still provide plenty of enjoyment and quite compelling versions of the opera. The Blu-ray format on C Major does not seem to provide the degree of video sharpness I have seen on some other Blu-ray products, but I’m certain it is vastly preferable to the quality of this video on DVD.
FANFARE: Bill White
Works on This Recording
Nabucco by Giuseppe Verdi
Mauro Buffoli (Tenor),
Alessandro Spina (Bass),
Dimitra Theodossiou (Soprano),
Anna Maria Chiuri (Soprano),
Bruno Ribeiro (Tenor),
Leo Nucci (Baritone),
Riccardo Zanellato (Bass)
Parma Teatro Regio Orchestra,
Parma Teatro Regio Chorus
Written: 1842; Italy
Date of Recording: 2009
Venue: Teatro Regio di Parma
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