Verdi’s Nabucco is the second in a set of three operas, which occupied the Edinburgh Playhouse from 30 March to 1 April. This trio, including La Boheme and Aida, is curated and directed by Ellen Kent in conjunction with Opera & Ballet International. Kent’s strictly traditional interpretation of Nabucco is no more and no less than expected, but the opera is still executed to a high standard.
Nabucco follows the plight of the Hebrew slaves as they are conquered, and then exiled, from Jerusalem by the arrogant and ignorant Assyrian king Nabucco. Nabucco is eventually struck down by God after claiming himself the one-and-only true god, and his throne is stolen by Nabucco’s cruel eldest daughter, Abigaille. The opera comes to a dramatic conclusion as Abigaille commits suicide and Nabucco, after converting to Judaism, regains his throne.
The cast as a whole was strong, but there was still room for a handful of standout performances among the cast. Olga Perrier, an internationally recognised French soprano, was unsurprisingly the highlight of the show. Perrier does not disappoint in her role as Abigaille. Her delivery of the powerful and flawed daughter of Nabucco is nuanced in the best way possible. And, despite the traditional interpretation of the Opera, Perrier presents herself with moments of modernity. Perrier’s Abigaille is so dynamic and lively that one almost forgets that the character is meant to be living in 587 BC. The singer behind Nabucco himself should also be mentioned. The voice of Nabucco filled the theatre, effortlessly hitting every note of the opera.
However, the most beloved member of the cast was not human at all. Garnering loud applause from the audience, a beautiful black war horse carried Nabucco across the set. In the vein of Lil’ Sebastian’s effect of the Park & Recreations town of Pawnee, this black stallion captivated the entire audience at every instance of his rare presence on stage. Watching a real horse gallop across the set was extremely effective in characterising the Assyrians, and gave viewers a taste of the extravagance often associated with opera.
The production was consistently performed at a high calibre, but I did feel let down by one of the opera’s numbers. ‘Va, pensiero, sull’ali dorate’, or ‘Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves’. It is the most famous piece from Nabucco, however, this cast’s performance of ‘Va, pensiero’ fell flat. What is often a hauntingly beautiful chorus lacked emotional impact in this adaptation. It is a shame that the opera’s most famous piece represented the least successful minutes in this two hour and 45 minute long opera.
Nabucco was a luxurious sight for the eyes with generally divine music and high energy. Though this opera is far less popular than its contemporaries, La Boheme or Aida, it is nevertheless accessible for both opera buffs and casual opera-goers alike.
Photo courtesy of Edinburgh Playhouse