CREATED at the Teatro Alla Scala, Milan, on 9 March 1842
PERFORMANCE IN ITALIAN - OVERTITLES IN FRENCH
MUSIC Giuseppe Verdi
LIBRETTO Temistocle Solera, from Nabuchodonosor (1836), tragedy by Auguste Anicet-Bourgeois and Francis Cornu
MUSICAL DIRECTOR Roberto Rizzi-Brignoli
DIJON BOURGOGNE ORCHESTRA
DIJON OPERA & LILLE OPERA CHOIRS
CHOIRS MASTERS Anass Ismat & Yves Parmentier
VOCAL COACH Bertille Monseiller & Nicolas Chesneau
STAGE DIRECTOR & VIDEO Marie-Éve Signeyrole
ASSISTANT TO STAGE DIRECTOR Marc Salmon
STAGE SETS Fabien Teigné
LIGHTING Philippe Berthomé
VIDEO Baptiste Klein & Marie-Éve Signeyrole
CHOREOGRAPHY Martin Grandperret
DRAMATURGY Simon Hatab
WITH THE PATRONAGE of the Crédit Agricole de Champagne-Bourgogne
The premiere of Nabucco in Milan 9 in March 1842 marked a turning point for the young composer, instantly turning the 29-year-old Giuseppe into the great genius Verdi. Yesterday a complete unknown with but two operas that garnered scant notice — even today Oberto and Un giorno di Regno rarely grace the stage — within hours he became the great new hope of the young generation of Italian lyric authors. The miracle of Nabucco is its juxtaposition of the sufferings of an ancient people, the Hebrews, and those of the more modern Italian nation.
That the Assyrian oppression of the people of Israel should rouse such patriotic fervour and enthusiasm in Lombardy, in the context of the last days of the Napoleonic saga and the struggle to shake off the Austrian yoke, is hardly surprising, in particular at a time when the first hints of the revolutionary explosion of 1848 were already beginning to be felt. A choir crystallizes this identification of the Milanese and the Hebrews in the libretto: the famous "Va, pensiero", expressing a people’s nostalgic longing for their lost freedom and homeland, was played as an encore at the premiere and would become something of a patriotic rallying cry. But it is also one of the characters, the grand priest Zaccaria, a political as well as religious leader, who for the Italians would become the model of a great man who embodies the hopes of the people. The librettist Solera knowingly plays to this effect, striking straight at the heart of a young Verdi, already sensitive to the question of the political freedom of his people, as can be seen in the subsequent operas that continued in this vein. We would be wrong, however, to see the success of Nabucco as merely a socio-political phenomenon. The score itself represents a complete break with Verdi’s prior works, as well as with the operatic conventions of its time. While the sacred subject matter has its antecedents in productions from the early 19thcentury, here it is infused with an epic breadth and breath that is quite uncommon, nourished by the constant concern for dramatic efficiency and inspired musical invention. With a far more unified and homogeneous score than the composer’s two previous operatic attempts, Nabucco also dares an audacious break from the lyric expectations of the period: instead of an intimate love story, here it is the people, represented by the choir, who play the main role; instead of star-crossed lovers — the Ismaele- Fenena-Abigaille triangle disappears from the second act — two political rivals, the prophet and the despot, violently oppose each other; and lastly, in the guise of the usual struggle between love and duty, the opera reflects on the problems of power, its limitations and its legitimacy.
These innovations would launch a whole new artistic and moral climate in Italy, marking a turn in the lyric art of the century, and heralding the arrival of the operas from the high period of Verdian maturity. The stage production of this biblical and political fresco is directed by Marie-Éve Signeyrole, under the baton of Roberto Rizzi-Brignoli.