Nabucco was Verdi's first international success as an opera composer and his first step toward becoming a national hero in Italy. Awkward moments show that he still has a lot to learn about theatrical technique, but the... more »re is lots of vigor, abundant melody, and occasionally a flash of genius. One magnificent chorus, "Va, pensiero," expresses the homesickness of Hebrew slaves in their Babylonian captivity. It became the unofficial anthem of the Risorgimento, 19th-century Italy's struggle for freedom and unity, and was sung spontaneously in 1901 by thousands of mourners lining the streets for Verdi's funeral procession. It still brings out the best in any Italian chorus, and it is the peak moment in this production--one of the few times when the chorus deserves to be seen as well as heard. Otherwise, we have here a fairly average evening in a provincial Italian opera house. There are capable but not riveting performances by Renato Bruson as Nebuchadnezzar, who conquers Israel, proclaims himself God, goes mad, and loses his throne, and Lauren Flanigan as Abigail, his wicked daughter who seizes the throne and plans to commit genocide. Drawbacks include an uneven supporting cast, slipshod camera work, and poor recorded sound. The visuals do capture some of the opera's epic scope, but until a better video edition comes along, most Verdi fans would probably be happier with one of the excellent audio recordings, perhaps the one conducted by Giuseppe Sinopoli on Deutsche Grammophon. --Joe McLellan« less
"Just said all with my title. The production is one of the most spectacular I can remember, but the sound is really ugly. It's a real pity! This is not the average quality of DVD I want to see!"
A dramatic widescreen delight
Noam Eitan | Brooklyn, NY United States | 06/07/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In Nabucco the singing is more important than the opera, in the sense that the many hits don't add up to a cohesive musical-dramatic entity. The tension is in the challenges to the singers and chorus. Verdi experiments here with every possible writing form for voices - there is even an a-cappella piece for the chorus - "Immenso Jeovha". The singers in this production provide the focused suspense associated with the vocal requirements of the major roles. Lauren Flanigan, is a marvel at the New York City Opera in the modern repertory, where she recently did Susan B. Anthony, in Virgil Thomson's "Mother of Us All". Flanigan's Abigaille is unusually complicated for a straightforward bitchy character. She creates Abigaille as a tormented woman whose vindictiveness stems from the depths of her anguish, and as such the character arouses some sympathy. Vocally her dramatic coloratura (a bit on the light side for the Verdi roles she is doing) has a lot of presence and a fabulous technique, but there is something more here than just the sum total of some technical accomplishments. I think it's the total commitment and concentration that is contagious, and is the hallmark of a great artist. Her immersion in the role is so total that she becomes breathless at the end of "Salgo gia del trono aurato" but this momentary loss of vocal control is part of the sport-event-like drama that this opera is, where the singers/athletes push themselves to their physical limits. Renato Bruson was the greatest baritone of the 80's. Nabucco is one of his signature roles, but I prefer Cappuccilli's more refined and nuanced approach. Bruson is a great stylist and his big voice is still in good shape, but the close up element of the recording brings out the dark colors of the voice. He attempts little subtlety or shading (other than in his confrontational duets with Flanigan) and delivers the declamations rather fiercely. After the first response of pleasure at the volume and intensity of the voice fades away it comes across as loud and strained. The chorus is up to the challenge, but other than Flanigan's and Bruson's contributions, the production seems to drag on somewhat routinely as far as the audience is concerned. There should be more excitement in the air, and the audience seems relatively indifferent for a Mediterranean audience attending a performance of Nabucco. This may have to do with the conductor's inability to bring out the fire in the work. The final applause dies before he even has a chance to come on stage. The picture quality is excellent, and the wide screen format is quite dramatic. There are some interesting camera angles, for example from the top side boxes, that on the wide screen give an unusual view of the stage. Some camera takes are inspired, like recording the singer in the background between two choir members in the foreground. Surprisingly though, the audio balance is a bit unstable as the singers move or turn their head and on some scenes it has an unnatural boxy acoustic on the stage (the orchestra pit acoustics is fine). The singers occasionally sound close and with no aura around the voice - this problem comes and goes and I couldn't fathom what it relates to. Occasionally the singers disappear momentarily out of focus, particularly when they retreat to the back of the stage. Despite these minor complaints I can't have enough of this DVD. Repeat viewing reveals many fine details of vocal technique, best sampled out of the dramatic context, since there is no context, but rather a parade of vocal pyrotechnics."
John H. Mitnick | 09/04/2000
(1 out of 5 stars)
"The squeeky floors and things going thump in the orchestra pit were so distracting to me that I didn't make it past the first act. The chorus sounded like they were a half mile away. My cat, who loves most operas, mistook the surrounding noises as someone knocking at the door and retreated to a quieter place. We allow ourselves one "dumb product of the month" so Nabucco will be "it" for September."
Elsa Mary Escott | England | 06/21/2000
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The sound on this dvd is not too bad for the voices, but the orchestral balance is weird, the trouble is we buy dvd as apposed to vhs hopefully for superior sound, but not in this case."
What happened to the Sound?
John H. Mitnick | Baltimore, MD USA | 06/07/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is another great opera from the San Carlo Opera in Naples. Overall, it is a fine operatic experience. Lauren Flanigan as Abigaille is wonderful. The bass who sings Zachariah is terrific, with a deep and full voice. Renato Bruson, who sings Nabucco, is unfortunately a little past his prime, and shouts and wavers on high notes. But he is a great artist, and gives a moving theatrical performance. In general, the sets and costumes look a little amateurish, and I kept thinking that this was a long cry from the Met in all the little details. Worse, the sound is heavily compressed, to the point that in pauses, the hiss cuts off suddenly, as if a limiter was used. I really think the producers have a little to learn about miking the performers properly, as there was great variation in volume, depending on where they were standing. Met videos get this right. Overall, though, I enjoyed this dvd quite a bit."