Nabucco by Giuseppe VerdiA popular production of Nabucco created in 2018 is being revived for four performances at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in 2023, conducted by Paolo Carignani and directed by Leo Muscato. Nabucco is considered one of Giuseppe Verdi’s greatest operas. The work sealed his place as the most important Italian composer of the 19th century, and itself became a symbol in the struggle for the unification of Italy. While Verdi was not the first composer to set texts of an intensely political nature to music, Italy’s greatest composer nevertheless made all the difference thanks to his musical genius; this is what gives his operas such a clear political tenor, imbuing them with the power to move the masses.
The plot concerns the Babylonian captivity of the Israelites imposed by King Nebuchadnezzar (Nabucco). When he, in a display of arrogance, demands they all worship him as their god, lightning strikes him down. Once Nabucco recognizes Jehovah as the one true God, he comes back to his senses, releasing the Israelites and giving his blessing for the union of his true daughter Fenena with Ismaele, the King of Jerusalem’s nephew. Abigaille, who usurped the throne of Nabucco, also turns to Jehovah by the end.
Leo Muscato, who staged this production, is among the most dynamic, up-and-coming opera directors working in Italy today. He has proven himself tackling works by Verdi and Puccini and has presented hugely successful productions at leading Italian opera houses (in Rome, Venice, Florence, Torino, and elsewhere). The director notes that, in his production of Nabucco, “there is no desire to conform to historical accuracy: the aesthetic identity of the settings and costumes aims at rendering an abstract place and time, so that attention is focused on the essence,” before going on to say that “the tragedy of deported and enslaved Jews reminds us on the one hand of the Nazi concentration camps’ tragedy, and on the other hand, it seems a lot like the torture systems adopted at contemporary detention camps, such as those of Guantanamo.”