My husband and I attended the Seattle Opera Production of Verdi’s Nabucco as part of the celebration of our anniversary (3 decades +) last Saturday. We did not expect much from this production since this opera, Verdi’s first, was rarely staged (which suggested e some irrelevant elements in the opera). Thus, we were rather surprised to realize how satisfied we were with this production of the opera.
The first surprise was provoked when the curtain was raised. Instead of the usual stage props what we saw in the center of dark stage was the orchestra with its conductor. It was as if we were attending a symphonic concert. The orchestra played the overture very well and we were quite satisfied. After all, what’s important in an opera production is its music, its singing. Then, a chorus walked out onto the stage in the back of the orchestra, and began to sing, which was also very good. The music is the thing. All the principal singers who sang upon the downstage and the apron where the orchestra pit was usually located were excellent. In fact, perhaps due to the location of their singing their voices often sounded even more sonorous.
In addition to the placement of the orchestra we were also surprised by the fact that the stage set was non-existent in this production. Instead of the usual stage façade, they used mostly expressive (as opposed to graphical) visual projections and video backdrops, which often appeared vaguely organic or even biological. The mysterious quality of these non-descript images worked for this opera due to the nature of the operatic material, which was ancient and religious.
The narrative itself, which was taken from the Bible, was rather convoluted and alien. However, two aspects of the narrative, such as Abigaille’s sorrow over her birth fate as a daughter of a slave in spite of the fact that she was also Nabucco’s daughter, and Nabucco’s emotional turmoil over his inability to love Abigaille as much as his daughter Fenena, were universal and helped the audience become engaged in the narrative intellectually as well as emotionally.
In the end, we were very happy that we could attend the Seattle Opera production of the rarely performed Verdi’s first opera Nabucco – though the smart staging (I think the opera company saved money by not creating extravagant stage facades) made me a little worried about the future of the opera in Seattle. I hope more people will learn the pleasure of opera so that it will live forever in our and our children’s cultural life.