Nabucco - Chisinau National Opera

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Norwich Theatre Royal

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

> Norwich Theatre Royal

Perfectly irresistible! Chisinau Opera attracted a near-capacity audience and from as far away as 100 miles for its performance of Verdi's early opera Nabucco.

No one could have gone home thinking the journey was not worthwhile.

From the soulful brass opening of the overture, which the orchestra played wholeheartedly under conductor Nicolae Dohotaru, to the great finale, the opera offered one thrill after another.

Religion and violence, love and betrayal, personal emotions and considerations of state, liberty and captivity, all have their part to play. The origins are, of course, biblical. But the sentiments remain eternally fresh.

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What holds it together? The spectacle is one factor. On trooped the Israelites, downcast and clad in rags, while their foes parade in glorious costumes, shining with gold.

Headgear becomes a vital factor, with the position of the crown, literally as well as figuratively, the object of one of many struggles.

The sets play their part too, taking inspiration from archaeology. This would not work but for Verdi's music, a product of his younger period.

Perhaps some of the scoring is a bit too easy, even blatant. What energy, though! What sheer enjoyment in the power of the trumpet, the emotion of the strings and the great rhythmic throb that is used to underline huge climaxes.

The production style is rather stiff and old fashioned without a lot of subtlety, and the characters have a tendency to act and sing to the audience, instead of to one another.

All the same, it adds up. The singing, especially of the chorus and of the bass soloists is stirring, and this is a period opera you must take on its own terms.

If you do so, the rewards are enormous enjoyment and a sense of heartwarming drama.

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