In this beginning of the year, our beloved Auditorium Mateo Herrera from the Forum Cultural Guanajuato from Leon City in Mexico, will broadcast once again the wonderful traditional live broadcasts from the MET in HD. This Saturday, January 7 of 2017, it will be the first HD broadcast of the year with Verdi’s first masterpiece “Nabucco”. Nabucco is an opera that marked the operatic career of Giuseppe Verdi and an opera that changed the history of Opera for good, making Verdi as one of the greatest Italian Opera composers of the moment and also of the future. What would the history of Opera be without Verdi? And specially without “Nabucco”?
Nabucco changed many things in three important things:
1 It changed the life of Giuseppe Verdi
2 It changed the history of Opera
3 It changed the history of Italy
After his first Opera…”Oberto” which was a regular success, and later after the failure of Un giorno di regno, in which Verdi was living one of his most dramatic and most difficult moments of his life…. he lost both his wife and two children…. Verdi was almost ready to give up Opera and never compose again… until he received a libretto from Temistocle Solera (which was rejected by composer Otto Nicolai) based on the Biblical stories, (specially from the Book of Daniel) of Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon. At the beginning, Verdi didn’t want to compose the opera but thankfully for all of us opera lovers, Verdi took the libretto…. threw it on the table (in a violent way) and the libretto opened itself and luckily, Verdi read the next lines… “Va pensiero, sull’ ali dorate” and started to change his “mind”. Still mourning the loss of his wife and children, and also after the flop of “Un Giorno di Regno”, Verdi was not in a mood to compose a new opera but thankfully, for the history of Opera… and after many discussions… Verdi finally did composed “Nabucco” and of course, as we know, the history of Opera changed for good. The most important composers of Italian Opera of that time were Bellini, Donizetti and Rossini and Verdi became later the most important successor of these three brilliant composers, in which the three of them were a huge incluence for Verdi’s music. When it premiered, it became a huge success. It is interesting to know that Soprano Giuseppina Strepponi, who became the first Abigaille became Verdi’s second wife. The role of Abigaille is considered as one of the most demanding roles for a Soprano and it caused to poor Giuseppina many health problems.
2 It changed the History of Opera: Thanks to Nabucco, Verdi continue to compose Opera and thankfully he gave us many, many masterpieces like his famous Trilogy “Il Trovatore, “Rigoletto” and “La Traviata”… also many other wonderful operas that dominated Europe like “Ernani”, “La Forza del Destino”, “Un Ballo in Maschera”, “Luisa Miller”, “I due Foscari”, “I Vespri Siciliani”, “Simon Boccanegra”, “Attila”, “Macbeth”, “I Lombardi”, “I masnadieri”, “La battaglia di Legnano”,….. his greatest masterpiece “Don Carlo” and his final masterpieces of golden age, “Aida”, “Otello” and “Falstaff”. Without “Nabucco”, these wonderful operas of Verdi would not have been possible. With Nabucco, the genius of Verdi began and with “Nabucco”, Verdi became the composer that we all know in these days and he also became the symbol of golden age of Opera (along with Richard Wagner) and now, many of Verdi’s Operas are always performed in all Opera Houses of the entire world. It also changed the history for Operatic roles for Baritones. The role of Nabucco was written for a Baritone and yes, in an operatic world in which the Tenors had the important roles, Nabucco marked an extraordinary begining for the many excellent roles for Baritones in leading roles and marked the beginning of the great “Verdinian Baritone roles”(Macbeth, Rigoletto, Falstaff, Simon Boccanegra, Iago, Rodrigo, Carlo V, just to name a few)
3: History of Italy: The majestic and heartbreaking chorus in “Nabucco”, the famous and moving Hebrew’s chorus “Va, Pensiero” became an important symbol for the times that Italy was living… “Va, Pensiero, sull’ali dorate – Go, thought, on wings of gold” becamse a symbol for the spirit of the unification movement of Italy and until these days, “Va, Pensiero” is a “second National Anthem” for Italy. (It almost became the National Anthem by the way!) Verdi himself participated as an elected politician but of course he contributed more to Italy’s unificantion movement by composing operas. The lyrics of “Va pensiero” – O, mia patria, sì bella e perduta! O, membranza, sì cara e fatal!” had a strong impression for the Italians that were fighting from foreign control back in the times of the unification of Italy.
Now why this HD performance of Nabucco is very important to watch? The role of Nabucco is performed by the legendary Placido Domingo, which is a living legend and a true Icon of Opera, in the same levels of Maria Callas and Enrico Caruso. Now… as I already mentioned above.. the role of Nabucco was written for a “Baritone” and as we all know… Placido Domingo is a Tenor. Placido has been performing Baritone roles lately, like Simon Boccanegra, La Traviata and Macbeth and well.. in this performance… we can forget for a moment that Nabucco is a “Baritone” and that now he is a “Tenor”. Again, this live in HD is a great opportunity to watch and listen to Placido Domingo in his new era as a “baritone” and this performance will be historical because we will be watching a legend of Opera that has performed for almost 50 years. Another powerful reason is to watch another living legend…. the great conductor Maestro James Levine who has conducted the Met for more of 30 years and has become an important symbol for the Met opera House. James Levine is retiring now and this live in HD of Nabucco (and Idomeneo in March) is our last opportunity to watch dear Maestro Levine to conduct at the Met.
And of course, another important reason to watch and listen to this HD is because of the glorious chorus of the Met, which plays a very important role in “Nabucco”.
Trivia: The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, were attributed to Nebuchadnezzar.
The name of Verdi…. V.E. R. D. I. was an acronym of Vittorio Emanuele, Re D’Italia, Victor Emmanuel II of Italy in the times of the unification of Italy.
When Verdi passed away… on his funerals… thousands of people were singing “Va, Pensiero”.
Nebuchadnezzar in madness, by the extraordinary Poet and visual artist, William Blake.