VERDI: Nabucco

Italian audiences lack
the patience to tackle the maverick inventions of modern experimental
directors. Here the director shows scant regard for any such post-modern
interpretation of the dramatic action.”

So true, but I’m still not sure I myself wouldn’t walk out of
this hotchpotch production that, moreover, is so badly sung.

To quote another sentence from the book, “Panizza’s production
is a veritable feast for the eye and firmly in the Italian mould”.
Colourful it definitely is but I don’t believe that “Italian
mould” is a synonym for ridiculous costumes and ugly make-up. The
moment Maestri appears, one simply has to laugh. Due to his huge frame, he is
already not a snappy dresser; but the blue costume with some wings and a most
ridiculous giant headgear only make him look like a surreal Aztec wizard. His
big arms are painted in red all along (a blood-thirsty tyrant? even during
his powerless days?). Andrea Gruber looks like a demented Medusa, her hair
entirely in long dreadlocks while her face is painted yellow. When she
appears in the last act to ask for pardon and to die, the yellow is gone.
This has probably a very profound reason which however escapes me. Nazzareno
Antinore looks not too comfortable in his Roman toga, a few hundred years
before the costume came in vogue. The armies of the conqueror mostly resemble
science fiction soldiers out of Flash Gordon. The loveliest moment comes at
the start of act 3 when for several minutes one thinks one has stumbled in a
performance of “Cirque du soleil.” A quick look at the box
reveals one isn’t wrong very much as the ‘participation of Sonics
acrobatic dance group” is duly noted. Mr. Panizza’s sets are
stylized realism though a big plastic (or metallic) horse for Nabucco’s
entrance once more is not my idea of the Italian mould.

I hoped the singing would be the redeeming feature but alas that too is
not the case. The best of the lot (the most beautifully costumed too) is Nino
Surguladze who has a rich darkly coloured voice (at least on DVD); but Fenena
is hardly a role that shows us a soprano’s true mettle. Tenor Nazzareno
Antinori is painful to watch and even more painful to hear. Antinori was
never a refined singer but now he is a very old looking bawler without a
sense of style or without breath to show some style. The High Priest has a
short role too but that’s no reason bass Carlo Striuli rambles along
with a most vile sound. Paata Burchuladze sings with the well-known hollow
sound, forceful delivery and the lack of a real supple legato that have been
his trade marks for at least ten years. With Ambrogio Maestri things at first
somewhat clear up. He seems to have a big lyric baritone somewhat reminiscent
of Mario Sereni. Still the timbre is not always homogenous and he really
doesn’t dominate the crowds, not withstanding his big frame. There is
no incisiveness in his singing the way Gobbi used to show though the elder
baritone maybe had half the voice of Maestri. The opera may be called
Nabucco but it’s of course Abigaille who runs the show. Gruber
is handicapped by her ugly make-up and probably by the stage director’s
orders. She pulls faces and acts like a small child imitating Snow
White’s bad stepmother. She probably produces a lot of noise but her
main weapon is just snarling. There is no beauty or even expression in the
singing, just shrillness.

Conductor Daniel Oren is somewhat too conscious of the camera and thinks
he has to deliver as well. Dancing on the roster seems to be a specialty and
he already takes a bow after the overture. He belongs to the faster the
better school and this doesn’t always work out very well: especially in
the concertati the singing is not always concerted.

Colour, sound and TV registration are fine.

Jan Neckers

image_description=Giuseppe Verdi: Nabucco
product_title=Giuseppe Verdi: Nabucco
product_by=Ambrogio Maestri (Nabucco), Andrea Gruber (Abigaille), Paata Burchuladze (Zaccaria), Nazzareno Antinori (Ismaele), Nino Surguladze (Fenena), Carlo Striuli (Il Gran Sacerdote), Paola Cigna (Anna), Enzo Peroni (Abdallo). Chorus Teatro Municipale di Piancenza. Orchestra Fondazione Arturo Toscanini conducted by Daniel Oren. Stage direction by Paolo Panizza.
product_id=Arthaus Musik 101241 [DVD]