The 9th June performance of Nabucco at Royal Opera House was a special treat, especially considering Placido Domingo’s age. A giant among tenors and a living operatic legend, Domingo was Nabucco, an aging king betrayed by a domineering adopted daughter, Abigaille.
Liudmyla Monastyrska (Abigaille) dominated the stage for most of the performance, with Domingo rising to full stature in the Dio di Giuda aria, act IV and whipping the audience up into rapture.
John Relyea was a powerful and formidable Zaccaria while American tenor Leonardo Capalbo, gave an Ismaele performance that delighted the audience with youthful zest and passion. He was “the young wine” with great character that will evolve, to Domingo’s “fully developed, mellifluous and golden wine” with countless nuances, overtones, hidden depth and an aftertaste that never fails to surprise and will stay with you forever.
Jamie Barton as Fenena struggled somewhat to match the sheer stage power of Monastyrska, but her voluptuous and rich voice served as a reminder, if one were needed, that Domingo’s presence ensures top operatic talent for the entire production.
The real star of Nabucco is, of course, the chorus and the audience sat breath abated but palpably electrified during the perennially popular Va Pensiero in act III. The chorus was consistently powerful and inspirational throughout, in fact, and deserved much of the rapturous applause at the finale.
I was somewhat ambivalent about the choice of costumes – a throwback to 1940s Nazi Germany – and paired down mis-en-scene, but sponsors’ generosity may not extend as far as traditional opera set-up these austerity-driven days. In any case, we were all there to enjoy the music and above all, the singing that never fails to send shivers of unadulterated pleasure down my spine.
The opera is a unique and precious privilege. Much credit goes to BP for sponsoring ROH and to Ian Rosenblatt for discovering and giving a platform to the Placido Domingos of the future.