Giuseppe Verdi’s “Nabucco”: 19th-century political theater

Nov 11, 2017 500

BY: Ed Rampell

With its third production of the season at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion LA Opera remains on a roll. Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco is another eye-popping extravaganza, with director and designer Thaddeus Strassberger’s opulent sets that not only recreate and evoke ancient Jerusalem and Babylon during biblical times (as D.W. Griffith did for his 1916 masterpiece about man’s inhumanity to man, Intolerance), as well as simultaneously suggesting 19th-century Italy. In particular, Milan’s famed Teatro alla Scala, where Nabucco premiered in 1842. It was the composer’s first artistically and commercially successful hit.

This is significant because Nabucco (the splendid Spanish/Mexican Plácido Domingo plays the title character as a bearded baritone) is an explicitly political piece: Librettist Temistocle Solera presented the Babylonian oppression of the Hebrews as a very obvious metaphor for the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s domination of the north of Italy, where Milano is located. 

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