|Nabucco - Director's Notes|
In many respects Nabucco is an opera-symbol of the Art of Giuseppe Verdi, even if it is one of his early works. The score is characterized by decisive strokes, all fire and brimstone: the abrupt chords which round off the caballette and the concertati betray the young composer’s yearning to establish himself, poised to launch a stellar career which landed him on the high peaks of Italian melodrama. Verdi was fully aware of his creative prowess and powers and was determined to make Nabucco his presentation card.
I believe that as director I have to come to grips with its magnetic force akin to a torrential flood, a molten lava flowing unabated from Verdi’s genius, which is released by the very first chords of the dramatic score. I cannot refrain from doing so: this force has to be transposed onstage, embracing the singers, play of lights, and the myriad effects which the most sophisticated technology makes possible. I have emphasised certain traits as suggested by the score itself. I must admit that with my professional baggage I just cannot ignore the music. I consider Zaccharia, the bass, a titanic figure recalling Moses in many ways, splendid in his isolation and in his spacious vision...I can almost see him scaling Mount Sinai to receive the Law...and I can even imagine him in the act of blazing a trail through the Red Sea. He is obviously immersed in a different dramatic context, but his function is to dominate the whole opera, from the opening bars to the final resounding invocation “Immenso Jehova”: his end phrase is really a summons from heaven “By serving Jehovah, you will be King of Kings!”
Abigail can easily be transformed into a male....instead she is a female, in spite of her furious declamations reminiscent of a warrior Queen. In my opinion she comes across as a vigorous yet beguiling Queen, with her regal ways mercifully shorn of needless hysterics. Her presence is truly imperial, decisive and elegant without conceding anything, like her singing...The death scene is touching: the public cannot be emotionally involved by her parting shot. The King, Nabucco,...is a dilemma. He can be almost a secondary figure when compared to the grandeur of Zaccharia and Abigail, but in fact he belongs to that caste of persons who succeed to come out victorious in the end: Act IV belongs to him, in whole and in part, and he has to conjure all the arguments which would set him up as a real protagonist.
In my mise-en-scene he appears mysterious and fascinating at first, almost like an icon....devoid of humanity...a clone of Baal...then his complex personality slowly unfolds, revealing a tormented and probing soul. His conversion betrays exquisite human traits. Ismael and Fenena form one of the “strange couples” in all Opera: Ismael, the proud and dashing tenor, Fenena, subdued but ready to lay down her life as a Jew among Jews, having a difficult aria to tackle at the end. It is not an easy task to steer these two away from a conventional static pose. I have tried to invest them both with a dynamism which is off the beaten track.
The scenery, my idea superbly realised by the magical bravura of Joseph Cauchi and his splendid team, depicts the classic stairway, a ziggurat embroiled in the coils of a monstrous, gigantic Baal, lords it over the ruins of the Temple. The costumes sport two defining colours: the deep blue and gold characterizes the Babylonians and the pure light stands for the Jews.
I am happy to be here at the Teatru Astra. Today, when Opera is going through a turbulent patch, especially where all of it started, in Italy (never the best of mothers, more of step mother!), and being able to work fired by infectious enthusiasm all around in a land kissed by the Sun and embraced by the sea is a great privilege indeed. A great in bocca.. to the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra and Mro Vella, the central pillar; the Choir coached by Maria Frendo; the comparse and the corps de ballet, the staff and the management of the Theatre. I hope that it will be a feast for all, typical of Great Music which makes us all the better for it.