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A Blazing Festival Finale

Grosses Festpielhaus
08/29/2013 -  and August 31, September 1, 2013
Giuseppe Verdi: Nabucco
Anna Pirozzi (Abigaille), Zeljko Lucic (Nabucco), Sonia Ganassi (Fenena), Francesco Meli (Ismaele), Dmitry Belosselskiy (Zaccaria), Simge Büyükedes (Anna), Saverio Fiore (Abdallo), Luca Dall’Amico (Il Gran Sacerdote)
Orchestra and Chorus del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Robert Gabbiani (Chorus Master), Riccardo Muti (Conductor)

R. Muti (© Silvia Lelli)

Three concert performances of Nabucco, Giuseppe Verdi’s first great success, marked the end of the 2013 Salzburg Festival. This opera, Verdi’s first great success, has never been known for its convincing drama. The story unfolds in a static and episodic manner. Staging the work often proves to be a challenge. But the drama is profound – it’s in the music, which teems with life, vitality, and outsized passions.

Muti’s Nabucco was quintessentially Italian. With his chorus and orchestra from Rome, all of them seemed to tap into something deep inside, particularly that chorus. It’s hard to explain in mere words. But, of course, music can communicate, can touch us much more than mere words.

Despite the absence of costumes and staging, Muti seemed to create not just a portrayal of the epic struggle between the Hebrew captives and their Babylonian masters but an evocation of the Italian people. Of course, a large part of this effect stems from the unique position in all of opera of "Va pensiero”, the magnificent chorus from act three, which has become the unofficial anthem of the Italian nation.

This performance marked only the second time I have seen Riccardo Muti conduct, totally visible, out of the pit; the first was at Carnegie Hall – an Otello, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, just over two years ago. It was truly unforgettable.

Muti’s gestures seemed much more economical this time. But his total control, the power he unleashed, the extraordinary dynamic nuance from orchestra and chorus, the almost ephemerally thin textures with exquisite orchestral detail – it was all there, yet again. Throughout, the chorus gave an exhilarating and passionate performance, alternately moving and thrilling.

Dmitry Belosselskiy’s Zaccaria exuded gravitas. He has a dark, deep, dark, sonorous voice, even throughout his range. His mellifluous bass conveyed dignity and fierce commitment. He has presence even on a concert platform. Francesco Meli’s beautifully colored voice bloomed at the top. My only regret in hearing him was that his role was not larger. Sonia Ganassi as Fenena sang with mellow, gleaming tone. As Nabucco, Zeljko Lucic offered some lovely soft singing and fine legato, but he was curiously lacking in passion – a reaction to him I have had before. In non-starring roles, the rest of the cast gave fine and committed performances.

And then there was Anna Pirozzi who substituted for an indisposed Tatania Serjan as Abigaille. She stepped into a demanding and even punishing role and triumphed. Pirozzi demonstrated a gift for narrative – creating, even in the absence of a costume and staging, a portrait of this passionate and tormented woman. Her phrasing was excellent; she had flexibility, wonderful high notes, and good legato. She sang with both power and the control required to achieve delicate effects. The duet between Abigaille and Nabucco was a highlight.

The audience was enthusiastic and demonstrative and the sustained, standing ovation was ended, after numerous bows, only when Maestro Muti waved goodbye. This performance, the first I have attended at the Salzburg Festival, will live in my memory.

Arlene Judith Klotzko



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