Verdi: Nabucco

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Verdi
LABELS: Decca
ALBUM TITLE: Verdi
WORKS: Nabucco
PERFORMER: Leo Nucci, Fabio Sartori, Carlo Colombara, Maria Guleghina, Nino Surguladze, Carlo Striuli, Carlo Bosi, Patrizia Cigna; Arena di Verona Chorus & Orchestra/Daniel Oren; dir. Denis Krief (Verona, 2007)
CATALOGUE NO: 074 3245

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Verdi’s first great opera might seem natural Verona territory, with its conflict of nations played out within grand ancient settings. Denis Krief’s self-designed production, however, relies on a substantial modernist installation dumped on the amphitheatre stage, where it gets in the way of such action as there is without adding anything in the way of Biblical atmosphere. The actual direction of the principals is static, with the vast chorus singing more in the manner of a choral society tackling an oratorio. Some stylised movement allotted to the preening Assyrian army looks positively silly. The musical and vocal sides of the evening are more successful. Entering confidently on horseback, Leo Nucci’s Nabucco is past his best, with some blustery, wide-of-the-note singing, but he has the scale of the role. So does Maria Guleghina as his wayward adopted daughter Abigaille, half warrior maiden, half psychopath, and a part she hurls herself at enthusiastically. The glamorous Nino Surguladze draws sympathy as Nabucco’s true daughter Fenena, but Fabio Sartori is an inert lump as her lover Ismaele, even though his vocalism is along the right lines. Best of the principals is Carlo Colombara’s Zaccaria, who delivers big and authoritative singing even if occasionally getting ahead of the beat. Daniel Oren’s conducting is exciting, and he draws finely controlled playing from the orchestra and solid tone from the chorus. But whatever half-baked notions about the piece Krief tries to sell us in the attached documentary, his production fails to come up with the dramatic goods. George Hall