Sunday, 19 June 2016

Just one baritone (ROH/Nabucco)

Verdi, Nabucco (Maurizio Benini cond. Orchestra of the Royal Opera House). 

I didn’t really want anything to break the spell of the Ring. But somebody would have to, and that person was Plácido Domingo. A revival of Daniele Abbado’s production of Nabucco at Covent Garden (seen 13th June) saw the second standing ovation within days for me. That’s probably about a year’s worth. This was a different beast however, and was really a question of lifetime achievement rather than outstanding performance. The one baritone is worth hearing and press reports suggesting his voice is tired etc are wrong. I can’t comment how this relates to the punch packed by his tenor voice, but you would write home about what remains. His stage presence is unsurpassed. Nabucco’s daughter Abigaille was Liudmyla Monastyrska who was magnificent powerful and limitless. The third voice about which you write home was John Relyea’s as Zaccaria.

An earlier relay is available to view online.

The production is more than serviceable. The temple is a series of concrete columns in a sand pit which resemble only the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. How well it works to make a connexion between the ancient Hebrews and the persecution faced by Jewish people in Nazi Germany, and the extent to which this supports the drama and music is doubtless one for debate. It is less of a stretch, however, than the idea of Risorgimento Italians singing va pensiero. And it was this most famous chorus which really shone. The huddles mass stood singing on the wings of a dove was deeply moving. I can’t recall the ROH chorus sounding better. Maurizio Benini got a careful account of the score which matched the drama onstage well. The reality is that this isn’t my favourite Verdi (either Otello or La traviata if you really wondered), but this was about as good a performance as you might hope of it.

Overall: worth it, and not just for Domingo.

Cast and creative credits:
Music - Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto - Temistocle Solera
Director - Daniele Abbado
Associate director - Boris Stetka
Designer - Alison Chitty
Lighting designer - Alessandro Carletti
Video designer - Luca Scarzella
Movement - Simona Bucci
Conductor - Maurizio Benini
Nabucco - Plácido Domingo
Zaccaria - John Relyea
Abigaille - Liudmyla Monastyrska
Ismaele - Jean-François Borras
Fenena - Jamie Barton
Anna - Vlada Borovko
Abdallo - Samuel Sakker
High Priest of Baal - David Shipley
Royal Opera Chorus
Concert master - Vasko Vassilev
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House

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