Today’s telecast of Verdi’s first masterpiece featured two of the singers who appeared the previous time Nabucco was broadcast in HD. Elijah Moshinsky’s 2001 production first appeared in the series seven years ago. Liudmyla Monastyrska was Abigaille then and now as was Dmitry Belosselskiy as Zaccaria. The title role today was performed by the Georgian bass George Gagnidze. The trio, conductor Danielle Callegari, and the remainder of the cast produced a thrilling performance.
Nabucco contains a raw energy unheard of in opera before Verdi’s appearance. His combination of melodic beauty, dramatic intensity, and insight into the core nature of humanity makes him supreme among opera composers. All of the characteristics that were molded into the masterpieces that flowed from him over his half-century career are present in Nabucco.
The work’s most difficult part is Abigaille. Ms Monastyrska was superb the last time around and was in equally fine vocal shape today. The role requires powerful high notes, large jumps in pitch, and great vocal stamina. The part was created by Giuseppina Strepponi who eventually became Verdi’s second wife. It may also have been responsible for her premature vocal decline. Monastyrska said during the intermission interview that it was one of her two favorite roles. Her voice seems to be holding its own against the strain of the part.
George Gagnidze has a fine Verdi style baritone voice. He sang with focus and sensitivity. He has a sonorous voice that lacked some heft during the more vigorous outbursts required of the Babylonian king who goes mad and loses his throne only to find religion and his crown at the opera’s conclusion.
Dmitry Belosselskiy was in much better voice today than during the first telecast of this opera. He started with a bit of a wobble but was fine thereafter. He has a lyric bass well suited for Verdi.
Tenor SeokJong Baek made his Met debut in the first performance of the current run of Nabucco. Ismaele is a small role that makes almost no demands on the singer who plays the role. Baek did well and seems to have a spinto voice that may be shown to better effect in larger roles. He’s due to sing Calaf in Turandot at the Met later this season. The listener will be able to get a better read on his potential when he’s heard in that part.
Mezzo-soprano Maria Barakova also made her Met debut as Fenena this season. She has a light mezzo that handled her undemanding part with grace.
Le Bu is a young bass-baritone who is just beginning his career. He seemed to have a formidable voice, though the High Priest’s part is so small that I can’t be certain.
As suggested above, Maestro Callegari conducted this most energetic of works with drive and elan. He got a great performance out of the Met’s superb band. His conducting was so good that the Met would be advised to give him more Verdi operas to lead.
Elijah Moshinsky’s 20+-year-old production has held up well. It is staged on a revolving platform that seamlessly lets the action flow from one scene to the next. Again, as in the last outing, the moving stage was silent and did not slow or stutter.
The opera was staged with only one intermission – between Act 2 and 3. Aside from the awesomely beautiful chorus ‘Va Pensiero’ that ends Act 3, the first half of the opera is noticeably better than the second. Callegari and his performers handled all the lyric and dramatic sequences with full artistry. They get an A. The audience, on the other hand, deserves an F. They could have been recruited from all the schools for the hearing impaired in the Greater New York area. Their response to all the great singing and playing suggested they were suffering from collective narcolepsy if their hearing were intact. They did stir a bit during the second half. The Met and it appears its audience as well, has not recovered from COVID and its attendant follies. These sequelae and the sequence of new operas with nothing to say other than virtue-signaling cliches should have been ameliorated by the appearance, at last, of a Verdi masterwork; but the damage to critical judgment may be permanent. The Met’s audience seems to be operating at the same level as its management.
Today’s telecast was directed by Habib Azar. He’s from the same school of sweaty closeups that characterizes Gary Halvorson’s work. There’s a minimum distance that should be enforced between the camera and the perspiring overweight singers pretending to be persons far younger and slimmer than an opera singer who has made it to the Met. Nevertheless, today’s outing was one of the best in the HD series. if you missed it and like Verdi, go to the encore show.
Anna……….Brittany Olivia Logan
High Priest………Le Bu
Video Director……..Habib Azar