Verdi’s first success was his third opera, Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar); it takes place during the fall of the first temple in Jerusalem and during the subsequent Babylonian Captivity. In this opera the title character has two daughters, Abigaille and Fenena. The former turns out to a slave girl whom he adopted. She discovers her true lineage in the second act. She then decides to launch a coup against Nabucco by spreading a rumor that he’s dead. He returns and scorning both the God of the Hebrews and Baal declares himself to be God. This overreach results in a celestial thunderbolt that deprives him of his senses. Abigaille takes the crown.
In the next act the witless Nabucco is tricked into putting his seal onto the document that will permit the slaughter of the Jews. When he realizes (he’s not totally deprived of reason) that this death warrant includes his biological daughter Fenena who has converted to Judaism he pleads with his adopted child for Fenena’s life, but Abigaille is unrelenting.
This is not the last time Verdi deals with a very dysfunctional relationship between a parent and an adopted child. I’ll post another example later. The music that depicts Nabucco’s plea for the life of his daughter is typical of the way Verdi treats the father daughter relationship in his later operas. The singers in the scene just described are Grace Bumbry and Sherrill Milnes. The recording was made in 1979.