Review: WNO - Nabucco @ WMC
Many unexpected giggles and much distaste was the feeling from the audience for this new production of Verdi's Nabucco at the Wales Millennium Centre.
I rarely lost the faith in this production, even if it did feature some rather silly bits. I feel that this review will trigger in me a further article regarding operas today and their relationship with their directors...
Set in Babylon, King Nabucco goes out of his way to give the Hebrews a really bad time. Here the Jews are scapegoats, yet one of his two daughters (Fenena) converts to their faith, whilst his other child (Abigaille) is a foil to all involved, in her attempts for power and one-supmanship. After declaring himself the true God, Nabucco is struck by a bolt of lighting, resulting in his madness.
This staging gave the Jews traditional attire from different eras in their history with black a dominant theme. Not as grim as the Tudor operas from last year, but remaining just about right. Tacky golden curtains for the palace, verging on a game show type feel. A dining table that rose as the King proclaims his godly nature. Many moments appeared like usual modern opera attempts to be relevant and always looking like the designer did a raffle of random locations suggestions and costume ideas.
The cast of singers are what brush away the inconsistencies of the staging. Here, David Kempster made a dominant and proclaimed Nabucco. Robyn Lyn Evans' Ismaele was a downtrodden yet still hopeful character. The daughters Fenena and Abigaille were tackled by Justina Gringyte and Mary Elizabeth Williams. They could not be more different as Gringyte felt regal and of a smart sort. As for Williams, she gave my favourite performance of the night. Her scheming as Abigaille made for a funny, predominant and eventually sympathetic time (her aria with gimpish, feather clad chorus members did have me laughing). Her singing alone is worth seeing the show. Her range spread out in fair and gutsy levels. After seeing her in Tosca it is a marvel once more to see her inaction.
Kevin Short got his moves on as Zaccaria, the high priest, as the chorus joined him in prayer-meets-disco dance moves. His rallies may have fallen flat at times, but this low register is difficult to master. The chorus remain many gods of their own sort. With this and Moses Und Aron, they have surpassed themselves this season. The famous Va Pensiero or Chorus Of The Hebrew Slaves gave them their finest moment, as they feature so predominantly in this opera. Conductor Xian Zhang and the musicians also filled with true Verdian vigour.
Also Rudolf Frey's production has little to no true meaning in its attempts to update the story. It's proves that opera is really about the voices and music first.
This has perhaps become my favourite Verdi opera. I'll give that some more thought...
Photo Credit: Bill Cooper