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4.2 out of 5 stars17
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 3 July 2010
Nabucco has a superb cast - Renato Bruson as Nabucco, Dimitrova as Abigaille, D'Artegna as the High Priest, but it is the chorus which really grabs me by the throat. The singing of the "Va pensiero" is sublime. My interest in opera was awoken by the BBC's recent Opera week but nothing could have prepared me for that moment. I was moved to tears. Visually and vocally this recording is first class.
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on 21 June 2014
It is a difficult opera that too often sounds as a collection of arias. Not this. Moreover, the voices are spectacular, the diction perfect also from non-italians, the acting of Bruson is superb. I have seen other DVDs of Nabucco (ando also in Opera) but this is the best.
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on 25 January 2010
This performance of Nabucco is very nice. Especially the singing and the acting of Renato Bruson as Nabucco. One of the very best Nabucco performers. This video recording (dated from 1981) is vivid with briljant colours, even if displayed on a today's LCD screen. That was supprising to me. Many other records from that period are not so goodlooking as this one.
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on 24 August 2010
SOURCE:
Live performance from La Scala in Milan, produced by National Video Corporation in association with Radiotelevisone Italiana, Milan. Nabucco was the first production of La Scala's 1986-87 season, so this performance can be assumed to have occurred in the autumn of 1986.

SOUND:
Generally adequate two-channel stereo. The microphones were apparently set to capture the solo vocalists and the orchestra. The chorus is attended with less care, leading to what strikes me as a seriously underpowered "Va, pensiero" in Act III.

CAST:
Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar), King of Babylon - Renato Bruson (baritone)
Abigaile, the elder but adopted daughter of Nabucco (or maybe his daughter by a concubine slave) - Ghena Dimitrova (soprano)
Fenena, younger daughter of Nabucco - Raquel Pierotti (soprano/mezzo-soprano)
Ismaele, presumably the son of Nerthaniah, son of Elishama, of the blood royal - Bruno Beccaria (tenor)
Zaccaria, High Priest of Jerusalem - Paata Burchuladze (bass)
High Priest of Baal at Babylon - Mario Luperi (baritone)
Anna, a Jewish woman - Francesca Garki (soprano)
Abdallo, a loyal officer in Nabucco's Guard - Ernesto Gavazzi (tenor)

CONDUCTOR:
Riccardo Muti with the Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro alla Scala in Milan.

SETS AND LIGHTING:
Not very impressive and generally dim. Act I takes place in the interior of what is meant to be Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. The main feature (indeed, about the only feature) is a long, curving, gloomily lit staircase.

Act II takes place in the palace in Babylon, a bluish and largely featureless space, and a hall elsewhere in the palace, conceived as a curving, blue, set-spanning staircase. Act III, Scene 1 is specifically identified in the score as the hanging gardens, but there is not a plant, hanging or otherwise in sight. The set has touches of Baroque architecture and animal motifs. It couldn't possibly look less Babylonian. It is bluish, though.

Scene 2 is "on the banks of the Euphrates." It consists of dimly lit, anonymous risers that allow for silhouettes against a featureless sky. The gloom makes the chorus all but invisible.

Act IV returns to the palace, this time to a virtually blank stage.

Scene two (supposedly the hanging gardens again) is a large, white stairway leading to a golden, man-sized statue of Baal at upstage center. This is the brightest scene in the opera. It looks like a moonlit night.

COSTUMES:
Poor Ismaele has the only touch of red to be seen in the whole production; unfortunately, he seems to be wearing a dress best suited for the Homecoming Queen of Babylon High School. His pearl-covered hat is something that Theda Bara would have killed for. Fenena, in her pale, high-collared dress, dead-white make-up and sugar loaf hat, looks like she has just beamed down from the moon. Zaccaria is wearing a sort of caricature of a Pope's miter, encircled by a golden crown, beneath which appear the (Roman ) letters YHWH. I imagine that a real high priest of Jerusalem would have thought that in terrible taste at best, and more likely blasphemous. There are some white costumes, but most are dark blue or black and hard to see in the parsimonious lighting.

STAGE DIRECTION:
Almost absent. The singers were apparently told to stand here or there and then left to their own devices. This is very much a classic operatic stand-and-deliver staging.

COMMENTARY:
"Nabucco" was Verdi's third opera and his first hit. It was a sensation that established him on the spot as the successor to Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti. He had just come through a personal crisis in which his wife and children had died in rapid order and his second opera, a comedy of all things, had been such a failure that it had been withdrawn from production. His depression was such that he had decided to give up composing.

One of the most famous stories in operatic lore speaks of Verdi's producer physically forcing a copy of the libretto of Nabucco into his pocket, of Verdi throwing it across his room, of the manuscript falling open to "Va, pensiero," and of the way that caught his attention. When Giuseppe Verdi died six decades later, thousands of Italians spontaneously sang "Va, pensiero" as his funeral procession passed by.

In 1842 many regarded Verdi as an unpolished peasant from the tiny town of Busetto. He had no significant patrons in the musical world and only a few advocates. One of them was the soprano Giuseppina Strepponi. She had championed his first opera and she appeared in the first production of his third as Abigaile. She would eventually become his second wife. Prior to her long and devoted alliance with Verdi, she had led a life not at all unlike that of Violetta Valery in her husband's "La Traviata."

The libretto is a fine example of 19th Century Italian piety, blood and thunder action, and casual indifference to historic facts. In this opera, for example, the king of Babylon is regularly called an Assyrian. He, the very man who had carried the Jews into Babylonian exile, is portrayed as ordering their return to Jerusalem--just seventy years too early.

"Nabucco" is early Verdi, but it is a true masterpiece. It has never dropped out of the standard operatic repertory and it works as effectively today as it did in 1842. "Nabucco" not only established Verdi as Rossini's, Bellini's and Donizetti's peer, it demonstrated that there was already more sheer, bold muscularity in his composition than in all three of his predecessors combined.

Bruson is good as Nabucco. He is a natural baritone, though, and I personally prefer a bass-baritone sound for the part. Burchuladze is a fine bass-baritone Zaccaria, although here again my preference would be for a true basso-profundo. Dimitrova is excellent in the role of Abigaile, a notorious voice-killer. At the time of this recording, she had no serious rivals in the part. The Ismaele and Fenena are adequate in their parts, although far more memorable for their preposterous costumes than for their singing.

This production marked the return of Riccardo Muti as Music Director of La Scala. He gives the audience their money's worth by conducting the overture like a hyper-active windmill on speed. After that, he is calmer and turns in solid work.

This is a good performance, one that's noticeably better sung than staged. Fortunately, the staging is merely inadequate rather than stupid and insulting in the manner of so many productions in this age of Eurotrash "Regietheatre."

Four stars.
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on 2 March 2013
Pure state of art!... You need to buy this DVD as soon as possible. Very good quality and beautiful sound.
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on 26 August 2013
I bought this on VHS when it first came out and played it so often it stopped working. I cannot claim to be an expert on the technicalities but I know Nabucco is and always will be my favourite opera. I have seen several versions, both live and on DVD and VHS and I still like this one the best.

For me, Renato Bruson IS Nabucco. He is both repellently evil at the start and quite heartbreaking after he has been struck down. Raquel Pierrotti as Fenena is lovely, with a truly beautiful mezzo voice - I only wish I could find more of her work. Paata Buccolahdze as Zaccariah has an amazing bass voice and Ghena Dimitrova is both arrogant and tender as Abigaille, note perfect in her very demanding role.

I'm sorry the earlier reviewers don't seem to agree with me, but this is only my opinion and I urge readers to at least give it a chance - if only to watch Ricardo Mutti conducting the overture! He is terrific.

Nabucco contains some of the most beautiful music in opera, with a wealth of chorus pieces as well as stunning ensembles and duets, and the only slight quibble from me is that the glorious 'Va pensiero' is rather disappointingly quiet so I have to turn up the volume to appreciate it.

When my DVD wears out I shall definitely go for this version again to replace it.
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on 17 August 2015
Good quality Italian TV broadcast in traditional style at very good price on budget Brilliant label but no sub-titles which are, for me, essential to enjoyment of opera DVDs.
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on 14 May 2011
I visited the Arena in Verona last year which is why I chose this particular version of Nabucco. The setting is wonderful and the performance equally so.
I liked the fact that you have sub-titles so you can follow the story. The aficionados don't like this feature I believe but I find it helpful. I can certainly recommend this version to anyone, I don't think it matters that it is from the 1980's
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on 24 February 2016
First class performance from La Scala as regards excellent voices, decor and Muti's conducting.
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on 11 August 2015
what more can one do just sit back and be awash with greatness
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