A good if unremarkable Nabucco, Deutekom is the best asset
Nabucco is Verdi's first masterpiece. It is not among Verdi's very finest especially plot-wise, but Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves is just gorgeous and justifiably one of opera's most famous choruses. This production is not my favourite Nabucco, the 1985 La Scala and 2002 Met performances are the best Nabuccos I've seen, but it is reasonably good.
What didn't I like about it so much? Firstly, and I may be going out on a limb saying this, but I didn't care for Siegmund Nimsgern's Nabucco. I admire his long phrases, but I don't the basic sound of his voice or some of the habits he adopts. I find his voice here overall pushed and dry, while his habits of barking and swooping between notes in legato lines are some I don't care for really. Dramatically, I wasn't really moved by him and I didn't find him commanding, often he stands there and sings with some hand gestures to give the sense that he is emoting but to me he's actually being static.
The production values are not bad, the costumes don't really stand out, especially with the lighting being so dark at times, and aren't very regal but are acceptable, while the sets are interesting, especially the art canvases. The staging however didn't involve me all that much, a lot of it was just standing there.
Riccardo Muti's conducting is solid, with his musicianship really impressing as always. On the other hand, I didn't always find the conducting thrilling, sometimes actually it was rather too firm and rigid. Muti's reading is a very faithful one, which means no interpolated notes allowed. Coming from someone who does get a thrill from a singer who sings an interpolated note and powerfully, I found it all solid and efficient but somewhat cold as well.
However, the sound is quite good. The orchestra are wonderful, very musical and powerful with nice textural balances, and vocally the chorus are spot-on. Va Pansiero(Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves) is very moving with a touch of hope, which is what it should be like.
Nimdsgern apart, the rest of the principal singing is excellent. Nunzio Todisco is rather staid in his acting as Ismaele, a common problem actually with tenors in the role, but sings with a strong full-blooded tenor voice that he phrases with just the right heroic touch. Sylvia Corbacho is a well-sung Fenena, and Mario Luperi sings competently in the role of the High Priest while not doing anything particularly special with it.
The two best performances come from Bonaldo Giaiotti and especially Cristina Deutekom. Giaiotti's Zaccaria is sung with a rich, noble bass and is very commanding, for me he was by far the best actor on the stage. Deutekom really excels in the voice killer role of Abaigaille, if Muti had allowed her to sing the interpolated high Cs and Ebs the performance would have been even more thrilling. That said, her low register is strong but she is at her vocal best in the colouratura, delivered by Deutekom with laser-sharp ease. Dramatically, she is more fearsome than her Queen of the Night, moving around the stage much more, but essentially it is in the voice that makes the audience sit up and listen.
All in all, good if unremarkable, Giaiotti and in particular Deutekom are what make the production work. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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