Brent Opera: Nabucco

When a small
company does what we deem to be a big piece, normally endowed with a
50-strong chorus, 70 orchestra and camels in abundance, disbelief hangs in
the air before the first down beat, but this production proved that Nabucco
can work with a chorus of 19 and a piano. The other big challenge with
Verdi is finding a Verdi baritone, in this case 2 and even though Verdi
bills one of them as a bass, he slips in the high odd note which is just
out of reach. This problem was skilfully tackled by the Musical Director
James Williams who deftly but sympathetically kept going almost carrying
the singers along with him – and it was in everyone’s interest
that he was only in charge of an upright piano rather than a blazing

Without resources for a set, a further pro was the lovely setting of St
Andrew’s Church and bearing in mind the libretto is based on the
biblical books of Jeremiah and Daniel this seemed fitting. Stage designer
Leah Sams seemingly had an easy time although her arch, cleverly lit by
Nigel Lewis to depict city walls, a cell door etc worked well.

Brent Opera has been going for nearly 100 years (2021) and is a free for
all to audition. The regulars in the company are of a certain age and this
proved to be another pro for the chorus which cleverly ranged in age down
to 2 children (and a fake babe in arms) – when they sang the famous
“Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves”, ”

Va, pensiero, sull’ali dorate

” / “Fly, thought, on golden wings”, it was an authentically moving moment
and with the odd good voice in the mix, the sound was pretty impressive

Fears aligned Nabucco doesn’t have to be staged in Verona or Earls
Court. It’s a psychological drama with a cast of 8, about the Jews
when they were being exiled from their homeland by the Babylonian King
Nabucco. A romantic and political plot are played out with the strong
message that good will conquer evil, and this point was clearly delivered
by director Ptolemy Christie. Having portrayed Nabucco as a maniacal
nutcase using his cruel daughter Abigaille as a side-kick vindictively
abusing the Jews, the revelation of his prayers to the God of Israel
pledging to convert at the end of the opera, were all the more poignant.
Christie systematically characterizes his characters. Zaccaria, the High
Priest decently sung by Steven East clad in an almost winged cloth top is Jesus – good, kind, generous, while Abigaille sung
bravely by Elisabeth Poirel is the root of all evil, bagging the crown,
tossing her father in prison and torturing Jews. These portrayals work
across the cast and chorus and make it believable in a way you didn’t
think would be possible. Sofia Celenza’s Anna (only one line sadly)
shines out both dramatically and vocally.

Clever old Brent Opera booking Williams and Christie – they’re
the real deal and produced an evening of great entertainment.

Louise Flind

product_title=Brent Opera: Nabucco
product_by=A review by Louise Flind