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on 28 August 2010
I got this purely because Maria Callas was in the main role, but the audience's noise is really annoying - even shouting during the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves. It's a very old recording, transferred from vinyl and it shows, although the voices are good the overall sound quality is mediocre. It would have been very much more enjoyable if the audience could have been dimmed somewhat. A shame.
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on 4 August 2014
"Nabucco" has been lucky on record -- the best is still the remarkable Gobbi/Souliotis/ Gardelli account on Decca, from 1965. This one, which I would award 4.5 stars, runs it close. Gobbi is that bit more incisive and distinctive than Manuguerra on this recording -- but there's isn't much in it. The young Souliotis, in her one indisputably great assumption, has the security as Abigaille that the mature Scotto can't quite match -- but Scotto is much stronger in the role than I expected, given that she started out as a Gilda and Lucia! And like Gardelli, Muti understands the crude energy of this music, and he gives it its head. In some respects, I prefer this recording -- the Fenena (Obratsova) is more positive, and Luchetti is more forceful than Prevedi, and I think Act 3 Scene 2 -- the "Va pensiero" scene, followed by Zachariah's invocation -- receives its strongest performance on record in this account, with Ghiaurov singing wonderfully, with warm tone and an excellent line, and the Chorus full-bodied. In the preceding scene -- the great confrontation between Abigaille and Nabucco, ending with the "Deh, perdona" duet -- Gobbi and Souliotis have the edge. Overall the Decca sound is sweeter and the balances in the ensembles perhaps better judged. But make no mistake -- this is a great account, and there's something very special about the way that Scotto gives herself to the role of Abigaille. It's Callas-like, and there's no higher praise than that. And, overall, Act 3 -- one of Verdi's greatest inspirations, to my mind -- gets justice done to it here.

The other considerable recording is Sinopoli's, with Cappuccilli and Dimitrova. Cappuccilli sings Nabucco with great beauty and long-breathed lines, but with less dramatic force. Dimitrova is less distinctive than Scotto, but very good nonetheless, Domingo is Ismaele -- not superior to Luchetti -- and Nesterenko is a fine Zachariah. Sinopoli's conducting sounds lovely, but is maybe a tad too refined for this opera. Still, Verdi lovers should have all three.
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"Con quest'opera si può dire veramente che ebbe principio la mia carriera artistica." ("It can truly be said that my artistic career began with this opera"). Verdi may perhaps be forgiven for taking artistic licence with this observation to Ricordi, his publisher; his previous works were the patchy and immature "Oberto" and the comic flop "Un giorno do regno". "Nabucco" marks a huge advance over these two works. Verdi here begins to find his true voice, mining the rich seam of cantilena melody which characterises his best early work and adding to it both psychological profundity and economy of expression.

Re-visiting this recording and comparing it with those by Sinopoli and Gardelli, I was struck by the tautness and impact of the libretto and plot. All three recordings have their flaws but all three are to a large degree successful and I found that I had been wrong to relegate this one to third place. Verdi was as incapable as Shakespeare of creating cardboard characters and it is remarkable how both the villains of the piece, Abigaille and Nabucco himself, emerge as complex, tormented souls, far more absorbing than the supposed heroes. They are the forerunners of that long line of father-daughter pairs; Solera's libretto stimulated Verdi's imagination and his emotions at a time when he was trying to emerge from two years of grief and suffering, marked by personal loss and (comparative) artistic failure.

Of course, the popularity of "Va, pensiero", the emphasis upon spectacle, the four marches, unison choruses and brassy scoring all combine to support the reputation of "Nabucco" as the chauvinistic rallying-call of popular legend. However, in the admixture of private passion and political chicanery, certain situations and even specific musical ideas are clearly proleptic of later, greater works such as "Simon Boccanegra", although the masterpiece it most resembles in mood, atmosphere and in its melding of extremes is perhaps "Aida". Certainly his contemporaries thought well enough of it to choose its music to accompany Verdi's funeral cortège.

Muti's conducting of this 1977 recording has been condemned as crude and aggressive. He is hectic at times, to be sure, but that is hardly out of keeping with the swift pace of events and he still gives his singers space in the more contemplative passages. By comparison, the more experienced Gardelli lets the action unfold in more relaxed style and has a more persuasive overview of the score. Sinopoli is simply erratic, with to much of a stop-go approach, dissecting every bar and letting tensions droop before trying to whip up passion out of nowhere. Nonetheless, I prefer Sinopoli's brisker, shapelier account of "Va, pensiero" to Muti's uncharacteristically lugubrious version; Gardelli's lies in between, as you might expect.

The eponymous starring role is in all three cases taken by a first class baritone. Manuguerra has the smoothest, most sheerly beautiful voice, with more sap in its upper reaches than the aging Gobbi and more bite than Cappuccilli's woolly tone, but all three bring admirable virtues to the part: Gobbi is of course the most moving and characterful, Cappuccilli displays his celebrated long-breathed line in "Deh, perdona", while the underrated Manuguerra combines some of the best features of both the others in a detailed, compellingly vocalised account.

As Abigaille, all three spinto sopranos - as Scotto had become by this stage of her career - provide the listener with thrills and vocal virtuosity. Dimitrova has a rather thin, wiry tone and the steam-whistle top notes, so typical of a certain type of Slavic soprano, tend to flutter, but she has the range and measure of this fiendish part and I sometimes think its worth owning Sinopoli's recording just to hear her wonderful pianissimo top C alone. She has no especial psychological insights and her registers are disconnected, but it's still a worthy assumption. Suliotis excels in a rôle tailor-made for a fearless, uninhibited twenty-two-year-old of formidable gifts and talent. She, too, suffers from poor integration of the two registers but capitalises on the contrast between her floated top and trenchant low notes. She is, of course, the artist who most recalls the formidable performance of Callas in her 1958 recital conducted by Rescigno. Scotto, too, shares features of Callas's delivery, including a biting delivery of text and the less recommendable lapses into flapping top notes when pressed at forte. When not pressing too hard, Scotto can still float the top and hers is a formidable firebrand of an Abigaille - she is the best actress of all. Given the intensity and conviction of Scotto's performance, I find that I am now much more forgiving of those squally high notes and inclined to prefer her to Dimitrova, who is technically superior but more generic in characterisation.

All three basses are fine artists: Nestorenko for Sinopoli has a mighty voice but lacks the warmth and authority of Ghiaurov - who is rusty and occasionally bleak of tone at this stage in his career but still impressive - or Carlo Cava, who has less voice than either but has thought more deeply about the inflection of words and nuances of character. All three make a beautiful job of their aria "Tu sul labbro", with its beguiling six-part cello accompaniment. Robert Lloyd is a notable High Priest for Muti; I wonder if I am the first to notice that he must have been absent for whatever reason (not worth paying him to sing so little?) during the second, 1978, recording session and thus we hear the unmistakable voice of Ghiaurov, deputising for Lloyd in the High Priest's one line in the finale.

In sheer vocal terms, Muti scores over Gardelli with Elena Obratsova's Fenena. Decca made the mistake of simply under-casting Fenena with the inadequate Dora Carral, but the problem with Obratsova is that she has far too much voice for so passive a character. Her stentorian tones are not a good fit for the delicate Fenena, although she vocalises better than either Carral or the late Valentini-Terrani, making a particularly fine job of her prayer in the last act.

One of the great pleasures of the Muti set is to hear Veriano Luchetti in the brief and rather ungrateful role of Ismaele. His smooth, ringing, Italianate tenor is far preferable to the clumsy Prevedi for Gardelli and superior even to Domingo, slumming it in a bit part for Sinopoli. Luchetti is particularly admirable in the lovely trio "Io t'amava".

The Ambrosian Chorus sounds a little lean in comparison with the Vienna State Opera Chorus or the Berliners but as ever they sing with verve and precision. The Philharmonia respond with alacrity to Muti's taut direction and the sound is excellent.

I remain irritated by EMI's penny-pinching and inconvenient policy of putting the libretto on a third CD-ROM; I do not want to go to the trouble or expense of printing off my own and thus simply take a libretto from another set on my shelves - but not everyone has multiple editions of the less popular Verdi operas. One minor point: in this re-packaging (not a re-mastering, I think; this dates from 1986 but remains satisfactory), in the cast list EMI have managed to transpose the surnames of that estimable tenor Keith Collins and soprano Anne Edwards.
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on 5 January 2012
I enjoy having this recording of Nabucco (alongside the better Gobbi/Lamberti edition) I'm a fan of Manuguerra, even though he has a slightly nasal tone. Scotto bashes her way through this recording and you get the feeling she's reaching for the throat lonzenges after every take - I just think that Abigaille is too heavy for her. A big disappointment is Ghiaurov: he's really struggling here and some of his top notes are decidedly strained. However, Muti is on great form and the pace is relentless. So if you love Verdi buy it. If you want only one Nabucco then the Decca Gobbi recording is (and always will be) in the top spot.
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on 20 November 2013
Get Gardelli's Sinopoli's and Muti's Nabuccos and compare them:
A - CONDUCTING: Gardelli is far slower than both of Muti and Sinopoli, and his paces are sometimes ill-fitting what are supposed to be strette and fast pieces such as Act I finale. Sinopoli is either slow or ludicrously fast (see the pace-contrast between Abigaiile and the chorus "Salgo già del trono aurato"), Muti is generally faster and perhaps more violent, but his reading is fitting with young Verdi's writing: you can appreciate especially his talent in pacing because of the old operatic structure Verdi still employed in Nabucco (arie and recitativi/ariosi), which he deals with without great pace-problems (i.e.: slowest recitativo then fastest aria, or vice versa).
NABUCCO: Personally I find all three of these Nabuccos lacking something vocally: Gobbi is far too old and bleating, Cappuccilli might have the right voice, but if it is it doesn't come out with his slow and artifcated singing; Manguerra has a somehow light, feeble voice, sometimes much alike Gobbi's, but at least can characterize quite well. I wonder why other great baritones such as Milnes didn't record the role (why, O why didn't Muti cast him, who recorded just two years before a terrific MacBeth under his baton?)
ABIGAILLE: Suliotis has a nice voice and the best sung high notes, but has something artifacted in her singing; Dimitrova has a big Big BIG voice, but Sinopoli's erratic conducting badly influences her performance; Scotto has a sometimes shrill voice, and shrieks more than the previous singers, but brings something very Lady Macbeth-esque in her perfomance, with a heavy (and perhaps sometimes unmisical and unpleasant) approach to angry Abigaille, and a completely transfigured, neraly angelic tone to loving/repented Abigaille (I'm thinking of her last aria).
ISMAELE & FENENA: Domingo is quite a name, but this hopeless, miserable role gives him no room to boast his usual features; Prevedi and Lucchetti are more or less the same. The best Fenena is most probably Valentini Terrani under Sinopoli, with a smooth pure voice; Carral is good too; Obraztsova has the tipical Slavic voice "through a bottle-neck", which makes her rendition more vocally "dirty" and more of a sidekick.
CONCLUSION: Muti has good conducting, a tipical Ismaele, reasonably good primarios and a it-would-be-better-another-singer-but-it's-still-fine Fenena, plus Nicolai Ghiaurov as Zaccaria and Robert Lloyd as the High Priest: the best average betwewen the three recordings.
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on 21 May 2011
I bought this because I enjoy early Verdi but don't know much of it and my aim is to hear as much as possible at the lowest cost. I think this was originally a Cetra recording from the fifties, so don't expect state of the art sound, but most of the solo singing is first-rate, the chorus is better than you might expect, and the orchestra plays with discipline. It's a typically robust Italian performance and thoroughly enjoyable. One small quibble,in my download at the opening of 'Va pensiero' half a bar has gone missing in the transfer, which is a bit irritating but soon forgotten. At the amazon price you can't go wrong.
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on 4 May 2013
A very good CD, a good introduction to Verdis music before our visit to Palermo where we saw Nabucco at Teatro Massimo
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on 8 May 2014
Good opera but whether it is 4 or 5 * is for the better educated to advise not me who enjoys a good singalong
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on 13 June 2013
I have grown to like this recording more and more. There are more dynamic and energetic productions that may initially make this seem a little (and I do mean a little), subdued, but it's worth taking the time to listen to the whole recording. Very nice.
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on 6 July 2012
Excellent recording, from the cast to the orchestra and chorus, it is pretty much as good as Nabucco would ever get. Renata Scotto is in great shape, her Abigaille is all that this part requires her to be, scheming, angry, vocally scary! But also a human being who has known and lost love and longs for it again, only to be disappointed. Muti never exaggerates Verdi's parts, and that's why one hardly hears top Cs or E flats where Verdi didn't write them... I don't think "Nabucco" loses anything without those high notes (The "Salgo gia'" aria is pretty much the only one most singers these days attempts); in this opera there are plenty of acrobatic notes and phrases throughout anyway!
Matteo Manuguerra is a credible king, with a strong and clear voice, very much suggestive of a Macbeth that would come 5 years later in Verdi's masterpiece.
Ghiaurov is a bit tired, I don't think he was right for the part at the time of this recording. Elena Obratsova is a wonderful Fenena, shame she doesn't get enough solos as it's not as secondary a role as it may seem in the overall plot...
Overall a great opera and a great recording, definitely worth owning.
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