A truly Zionist opera
Verdi's 160-year-old opera sounds and looks today like a genuine Zionist story. The land of Judea is overrun and oppressed a cruel Assyrian conqueror, but thanks to God's intervention, which leads to two public conversions, a case of temporary insanity, the smashing of idols and one suicide - everything ends well and the suffering of the prisoners of Zion in Babylon comes to an end with a song of gratitude to the Almighty and the complete capitulation of the conquerors and their gods.
The story contains numerous plots - political, personal, theological. One may look for universal symbols of the fragility and arbitrariness of power - any power - or one may leave the story line within the historical context in which it was written (Verdi definitely had current, nationalistic motives in mind). But there is a plot here and that means the progression of events and the creation of dramatic tension along with the development of characters.
The director chose an old-fashioned theatrical presentation with grandiose scenery, effects created by lighting and fire, and a complete lack of tension. One scene followed another, one static picture after another. Noteworthy however were Paata Burchuladze (Zaccaria), Ko Seng Hyoun (Nabucco) and Svetlana Sandler (Fenena), who demonstrated dramatic skills that occasionally were even convincing. The rest remained in the hands of the conductor and the music. The slaves' chorus was sung twice, par for the course in "Nabucco." Once, however, I would like, just for a change, to see it performed as a slow, sad melancholy waltz. But in this performance, which took the plot at face value and with deadly seriousness, something so sublime would have indeed been out of place.
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