(credit: Bill Cooper)
The long-awaited revival of Verdi’s stunning Old Testament drama about the life of Nebuchadnezzar before Christmas began with the second cast.
COVID oversaw a performance by Scratch Until January — which in theory would have seen Anna Netrebko debut as Abigail, a role repeatedly thwarted by the pandemic. As it happened, travel restrictions meant an evening without Netrebko, replaced by Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska – herself the original Abigail to produce Daniel Abaddon’s Ashes. Conductor Daniel Oren, too, was troubled, and was soon replaced by Renato Balsadona, who had previously conducted the choir at ROH.
cruel and violent
Abaddon’s production is gray and massive, with spare stone cuts, a sandpit, and chicken wire carvings evoking the stark cruelty of undisciplined power, and the moral emptiness of ambition. Alison Chetty’s monolithic pieces are a nod to the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, and 20th-century costumes contextualize the event with an era particularly associated with mass exodus and genocide, which corresponds squarely to an unambiguous text about the genocide of a people, strict with the liberating Old Testament. iron.
But there are a few pitfalls that lead to a somewhat rough and somewhat sweet relationship. Redundant projections – a kind of God looking at the stage from above – indicate concerns about keeping the audience interested. The cavernous set makes the movement feel steady, and leads to strange theatrical visuals regarding the plot – Nabucco stands between preparations for the very execution that will greatly frustrate him, while Fenena sings obliviously. The idol smashed in the epilogue is stunning enough – kind of wicker that speaks for a literally transparent power figure – but it was destroyed as foolishly as possible, and lukewarmly dismantled by the actors, much to the audience’s laughter.
For an opera chorus so heavy—and so much about society—the Jews and the Babylonians felt oddly indiscriminate (perhaps the mystical wearing of costumes denoting perpetrators and victims?), as did the individuals in the chorus itself (except for a groovy, sparkling child actor, who brought a bit of liveliness to the proceedings? ). And also they were often shifted to the side of the central plaza on the stage, so they ended up feeling like awkward spectators at their own show. But, at least, the great chorus of “Va, pensiero” struck the right dramatic rhythms: a literally huddled mass of the wretched of the earth, lit from above, sings (a little behind the beat, granted) with a faint frailty and a hope. The sudden increase in intensity in “Oh mia Patria, sì bella e perduta” was an objective lesson in the thoughtful diffusion of vocal color and weight in such forces.
delivers in spades
The opera presents a powerful archetype of Verdi’s broken patriarchs – Rigoletto, Miller, Filippo II – in its titular character, the role of the great baritone with passive field. cantabile Lyrical, psychological peak shattering of paranoia and grandeur, electric high notes. The Amartuvshin Enkhbat delivered all of the above in spades, including a stunning A-flat, despite the production imbalance in both design and direction. (Putting your foot heavily on a stack of books is a great example of when less really isn’t more if you’re trying to sell cold commands and impeccable authority to the public.)
His collapse at the height of the second semester (“I am no longer a king, I am God”) He had Lear-like strength, even if the way he sank on the ground was a little heavy (some things, in operas, never change); His lyrical return in the fourth act was rich and original, and the entire record was filled with the warmth of redemption and regret.
Alexander Vinogradov He provided equally magnificent vocals as the high priest Zechariah, displaying a charismatic and well-oiled instrument that immerses the depths of prophecy and torment. “Viennese, O Levita, ‘his reading of the canonical tablets was full of weight and vow; Vinogradov has a richness but also a deep lyrical quality which allows him to spread melodic lines with grace and remarkable softness.
A tale of two halves
Monastyrska had an uneven first half – ruthless despite the role – with a very insecure upper record and brutality on many of her upper notes, seemingly unable to settle into safety related with singing. But the interval seems to make all the difference, and she finds her step in the third act, with particularly soft vocals — velvety and smooth at the top of “Anch’io dischiuso un giorno” — and the explosive subtlety and intensity of her cabaletta’s “Salgo già del trono” aurato”.
Necmettin Mavlyanov doesn’t have much to do in the somewhat understated role of Ishmael, but he sang very enthusiastically nonetheless. Fenena’s most substantial contribution belongs to Vasilisa Berzhanskaya, whose preparation for martyrdom was glassy and fragile.
Balsadonna performed the score with equal precision and luxury, in what was truly an excellent evening for the orchestra. Particularly remarkable was the melancholy cello solo that lavishes Verdi upon us; Balsadona and the Pit channeled the tensed energies of the foreground in a way that evoked febrile excitement and constant menace.
Mixed bag of productions, but great musical values.