VERDI: Nabucco (Nabucodonosor)

Music composed by Giuseppe Verdi. Libretto by Temistocle Solera after Nabuccodonosor, a ballet by Antonio Cortesi, and Nabuchodonosor, a play by Auguste Anicet-Bourgeois and Francis Cornu.

First Performance: 9 March 1842, Teatro alla Scala, Milan.

Principal Characters:
Nabucodonosor, King of Babylon Baritone
Ismaele, nephew of Sedecia, King of Jerusalem Tenor
Zaccaria, High Priest of the Hebrews Bass
Abigaille, a slave Soprano
Fenena, daughter of Nabucodonosor Soprano
The High Priest of Baal Bass
Abdallo, elderly officer of the King of Babylon Tenor
Anna, Zaccaria’s sister Soprano


Part I

Nabucco, King of Babylon, has attacked the Israelites who, gathered in the temple of
Solomon, pray for the salvation of Israel. The High Priest encourages them to have faith
in their God, and says that he has a valuable hostage, Fenena, the daughter of Nabucco,
Ismaele arrives, the nephew of the King of Jerusalem, to whom Zaccaria entrusts Fenena
when he learns that Nabucco is making a furious entry into the city. Ismaele and Fenena,
in love with each other, attempt to flee, but Abigaille — a slave believed to
be Nabucco’s first daughter — bursts into the temple at the head of
a band of Babylonian warriors disguised as Israelites. Abigaille, who unrequitedly loves
Ismaele, accuses him of betraying his country but offers to save him if he will return
her love. Nabucco now enters the temple but is confronted by Zaccaria, who threatens to
kill Fenena if he profanes the sanctuary. As the High Priest is about to stab her,
Ismaele disarms him: Fenena throws herself into the arms of Nabucco, who orders the
destruction of the temple in revenge.

Part II

Having returned to Babylon, Abigaille learns from a document taken from Nabucco that she
is a slave, and for this reason he has appointed Fenena regent in his absence. Furious
with Nabucco and Fenena, who has been converted to the God of Israel, she attempts to
wrest the crown from her but the King arrives and, snatching the crown from Abigaille
and repudiating both the God of Babylon and the God of the Israelites, proclaims himself
God. He is immediately struck down by a thunderbolt, and dementedly invokes
Fenena’s aid while Abigaille picks up the crown.

Part III

Abigaille, having seized the throne, orders the death of all the Israelites. Nabucco
enters in ragged clothing, claiming back the throne which Abigaille says she has
occupied for the good of Baal, as he is deranged. She forces him to sign the
Israelites’ death-warrant, but when Nabucco realizes that he has thus
condemned Fenena he wants to retract, Abigaille is obdurate and has him led off to
prison. On the banks of the Euphrates the Israelites, in chains, lament their fate.

Part IV

From prison Nabucco sees Fenena being dragged to her death and desperately begs
forgiveness from the God of the Israelites. Restored to sanity, he escapes with a band
of faithful soldiers and saves his daughter. The idol of Baal falls and shatters, and
Nabucco extols the glory of Jehovah. Abigaille has taken poison but, on the point of
death, she begs Fenena’s forgiveness and blesses her love for Ismaele,
imploring God’s mercy. Nabucco is hailed by Zaccaria as the king of kings.

Click here for the complete libretto.

image_description=Nebuchadnezzar kills the children of the King Zedekiah by Gustave DorÈ (1866) [Source: 2 Kings 25: 1-7]
first_audio_name=Giuseppe Verdi: Nabucco (Nabucodonosor)
Windows Media Player
second_audio_name=Giuseppe Verdi: Nabucco (Nabucodonosor)
product_title=Giuseppe Verdi: Nabucco (Nabucodonosor)
product_by=Abdallo: Luciano della Pergola
Abigaille: Maria Callas
Anna: Silvana Tenti
Fenena: Amalia Pini
The High Priest: Ighino RiccÚ
Ismaele: Gino Sinimberghi
Nabucco: Gino Bechi
Zaccaria: Luciano Neroni

Conductor: Vittorio Gui
Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro San Carlo, Napoli
Live performance, 20 December 1949, Naples