DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

VERDI: Nabucco (complete opera), Blu-ray (2012)

One of Verdi’s most popular operas is given a performance fully worthy of the ranking.

Published on February 11, 2013

VERDI: Nabucco (complete opera), Blu-ray (2012)

VERDI: Nabucco (complete opera), Blu-ray (2012)

Leo Nucci (Nabucco)/ Bruno Ribeiro (Ismaele)/ Riccardo Zanellato (Zaccaria)/ Dimitra Theodossiou (Abigaille)/ Anna Maria Chiuri (Fenena)/ Orchestra and Chorus of the Regio Theater of Parma/ Michele Mariotti
Director: Tiziano Mancini
Studio: C Major/ Unitel Classica 720504 [Distr. by Naxos]
Video: 16:9 Color 1080i HD
Audio: PCM Stereo, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: German, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Japanese
Extra: Introduction to Nabucco, 10 minutes
All Regions
Length: 137 minutes
Rating: ****:

Nabucco is Verdi’s third composed opera, his first real success—and a whopper at that—and, according to which tablature you believe, his third most popular opera and the seventeenth most popular opera in the world today. That last surprised me, but when watching this very fine version my eyes have been opened to its attraction. Beside the famous “chorus of the slaves” it contains a number of superb dramatic arias, and the chorus is given other work to do as well. The biblical story of Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar) provides a wonderful platform for some truly exceptional music, and the ungrateful role of Abigaille, the slave who might be Nabucco’s oldest daughter, is one of the toughest in the repertory and has proved the downfall of many a soprano. In fact there are no easy roles here where any singer may coast along—all are critical, and all are important dramatically. Verdi knew this, and no doubt was trying to make an artistic impression in this manner so important to a young composer. That he succeeded in reigning in the dramatic tension and tightens the story so well as compared to his first operas is a testament to the quantum leap he was making as a composer with this work. Opera would never be the same again.

This production, part of the “Tutto Verdi” series on Unitel where all the composer’s operas are being released on Blu-ray, is mainly traditional with only a few minor anachronisms. The costuming appears at least a little period-oriented except when examined more closely and you see that one person has a tie on, and a few others’ clothes that are similar to period clothing but just a little different. Nothing in the rest of the production scenery-wise indicates any sort of ulterior concept in terms of time or place, and the scenery is for the most part rather simple. This is a live recording, and so we get various views that don’t stray too far from the perspective of most audience members aside from the close-ups.

The title role is not the strongest one; longtime mainstay Leo Nucci’s Nabucco is solid but not outstanding, and he has a tendency to slide into too many notes. The roles of Ismaele and Zaccaria are also well-handled and acted. But it is the women who shine in this production. Dimitra Theodossiou as Abigaille is simply all over the role with exceptional technical acumen and mature character focus, one of the best I have heard anywhere in this part. Anna Maria Chiuri’s Fenena is also nicely rendered, while chorus and orchestra sing and play like they have known this music from the cradle—and that is probably close to the truth. This is an easy recommendation for a standard Nabucco on video, and I found it very enjoyable. Sound is exceptional and well-balanced, and the 1080i images speak for themselves.

—Steven Ritter

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