After fire destroyed the Royal Ducal Theatre, Milanese aristocrates took no more than twelve days to design a new theatre and send their plans to the Empress Maria Theresa. Two years later, in 1778, the new opera house was inaugurated, on the site of the Santa Maria alia Scala Church. The Teatro alia Scala wasted no time in becoming one of the best: all of Europe came to admire the flamboyant costumes, the impressive chorus, and the singers, famous for their dramatic finesse. The audience was a show in itself: people visited in their respective boxes, exchanged the latest news, dined, and played cards... A tradition that is now lost to the ages, while the Scala's public nonetheless still knows how to make itself heard if it completely disagrees with a trill, or when it enthusiastically applauds a prima donna.
During the nineteenth century, competition from the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, which then attracted the peninsula's best voices, obliged the Milanese opera house to undergo renovation, which it did with panache! Rossini's, Bellini's, and Verdi's names were henceforth linked to that of the illustrious house, and the history of Italian music was written within its walls. Works such as NORMA, NABUCCO, II TURCO IN ITALIA, and FALSTAFF were premiered here, while singers such as Isabella Colbran and Maria Malibran triumphed on its stage.
The end of Verdi's reign ushered in the beginning of Toscanini's. Despite his famous temper tantrums, the Italian conductor formed an orchestra and a permanent company which imposed new standards of quality the world over. Those were the days that one could sing at the MET only under the condition of having been previously consecrated on the Scala's stage...
The Scala was destroyed in 1943. Rapidly reconstructed along the original plans, the house has never lost its soul, thanks to artists such as Giulini, Kaum war die Herrschaft Verdis zuende, Callas, Karajan, and Tebaldi, who all once trembled at the idea of appearing in the light shed over the stage by the hall's huge Murano crystal chandelier.
Work Approximate Running Time : 145 mn
SUNG IN ITALIAN
When Giuseppe Verdi composed the opera, Nabucco in 1841, he blended the universal themes of love and betrayal with a powerful tale of captivity, slavery and triumph. Verdi tells his story through the actions of passionate characters who are forced to make life and death decisions, ensuring that Nabucco has many contrasts of dramatic light and dark. Most notable is the scene where Nabucco, King of Babylon, loses his crown in a moment of supernatural revenge, contrasting with the lovely and gentle Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves. The opera will endure because Giuseppe Verdi understood human nature.
The opera tells the story of a group of captive Israelites triumphing over their Babylonian captors. The Israelite leader, Ismaele, fights the forces of evil to keep the love of the Babylonian princess Fenena and return his people to Israel. He has to defeat the High Priest of the pagan god, Baal, and the wicked princess, Abigaille.
The Babylonian army arrives in Jerusalem. Zaccaria, the high priest, entrusts Fenena to Ismaele, nephew of the King of Jerusalem. The couple are already in love, having met when Ismaele was previously captive in Babylon. Abigaille, King of Babylon's eldest daughter, is also in love with Ismaele. She threatens Fenena with high treason if the couple do not renounce one another. Ismaele refuses, betraying the Israelites. The King of Babylon destroys the temple.
Abigaille discovers that she is the daughter of slaves. The High Priest of Baal spreads rumours that Fenena has released the Israeli captives and that he intends to place Abigaille on the throne. Zaccaria tells the Israelites that Fenena has converted to Judaism and pleads with them to forgive Ismaele. Because of Fenena's conversion, the King of Babylon threatens all of the Israelites with death. When he declares himself a god, there is a crack of thunder, his crown falls off and Abigaille seizes it.
Abigaille is now queen of Babylon. She tricks the broken King of Babylon into signing the death warrant of the Israelites, which means the death of Fenena. He pleads for her life but Abigaille is unmoved and tears up the document that proves she is a slave. On the banks of the Euphrates, the Israelites sing their song of longing for the homeland: Fly, thoughts, on golden wings.
The King of Babylon watches as Fenena is led to her death. He promises to convert to Judaism and to rebuild the temple of Jerusalem if Fenena's life is saved. His strength is restored and he hurries to save Fenena and the Israelites from death. The Babylonian idol falls to the ground and Abigaille poisons herself. Fenena forgives Abigaille as she dies.
THE MAIN ROLES
Nabucco, baritone, King of Babylon
Fenena, mezzo soprano, daughter to the King of Babylon
Abigaille, soprano, his supposed daughter
Ismaele, tenor, nephew of the King of Jerusalem
Zaccaria, bass, high priest of the Jews
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