Nabucco performed by Placido Domino
Nabucco - Met Opera with Placido Domingo and James Levine

Nabucco – Met Opera with Placido Domingo and James Levine

The Met Opera witnessed Placido Domingo and James Levine perform together almost 3,000 times put together and for the commencing of 2017 the Met Opera brought them together again to perform Verdi’s earlier opera, Nabucco. Sitting at the Richmond Curzon Cinema I felt a real buzz from frequent Met Live goers, noticing – yet again – that I was the youngest person in the cinema, which was a different story at the Met Opera – children, families, young and old seemed ecstatic to see both great legends on the Met’s stage.

Many operas (such as Aida, Ernani, and even Idomeneo) are driven by the voices of its chorus ensemble and Nabucco is no exception. Levine was delighted by the Met’s talented chorus singers and the brilliant Met orchestra – who gave a beautiful performance of Verdi’s ravishing overture – that he requested an encore of the “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves”, which was welcomed by all audiences – those at the Met and the hundreds of cinemas being broadcasted to around the world.

Nabucco, based on the biblical story first premiered at La Scala in Milan on 9 March 1842. It is considered the opera which established Verdi as a composer.

Nabucco performed by Placido Domino

Nabucco performed by Placido Domino

The Met stage had two sets back-to-back on rotation. On one side was the exterior of the Israelites’ temple, while the other was the throne of Babylon. Undoubtedly an impressive staging for Jerusalem 6th century it appeared to be a stage hazard for the soloists with its steep stairs, lacking any rails or bars to support them.

Costumes were also in context, including Domingo in a semi-Star Wars military get up as the King of Babylon, while his half daughter Abigaille performed by Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska showed off her vocal mettle. Even though she played the role of the anti-hero, she still got to wear the best dresses for usurping her father (well, not exactly) – she later finds out that she’s not the king’s daughter, at all.

Wearing glamorous dresses, Monastyrska led her voice with exceptional skill by measuring her tensions, strong for the powerful arias as newly-made vengeful Queen whilst calm and subdued when singing of her unreciprocated love for Ismaele (Russell Thomas) and dying from poison in the arms of Nabucco.

Nabucco with Liudmyla Monastryska

Nabucco with Liudmyla Monastryska

Russian Bass Dmitry Belosselskiy was robust and consistent as Zaccaria, making a grand HD live debut as the high priest of the Jews. Jamie Barton was also rich in tone and melody, and easy to empathize with given her emotional duets with Russell Thomas who had a polished and lyrical voice tonight. Sadly it’s just Placido Domingo’s desire to sing a baritone role which fails, however, there’s no doubt about it, this veteran 75-year-old tenor can sing and act. (Good on him!) He manages to make the role his own. Nevertheless a baritone voice is required for the King of Babylon. Domingo’s natural ‘tenor’ voice seemed became appropriate by act III when Nabucco’s kingdom is betrayed, his daughter is sentenced to death and he soon realises his mortal weaknesses as a man, not as a God.

☆☆☆☆

This was the last showing of Elijah Moshinsky’s production of Nabucco. Set designs were by John Napier with Andreane Neofitou’s costumes. For more information about his opera, click here for Metropolitan Opera’s website, or if you are based in the UK, some Picture House cinemas are showing an encore screening of Nabucco at 12pm on Tuesday 10 January. Click here for the Picture House website.

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