Spain Verdi: Nabucco, Comunitat Valenciana Orchestra and Chorus, Ramón Tebar (conductor), Palau de Les Arts, Valencia, 14.5.2015 (JMI)
Production: Bayerische Staatsoper
Direction, Sets and Costumes: Yannis Kokkos
Lighting: Michael Bauer (original)
Benedikt Zehm (revival)
Nabucco: Ambrogio Maestri
Abigail: Anna Pirozzi
Zaccaría: Serguei Artamonov
Ismaele: Brian Jagde
Fenena: Varduhi Abrahamyan
With Nabucco, the regular opera season in Valencia comes to an end. There will be a few performances of Narciso, to be held in the small Vicente Martin y Soler theatre, but this year there will not be a Festival of the Mediterranean.
Leo Nucci had been scheduled to sing the title role in Nabucco, but unfortunately the Italian baritone had to cancel due to illness, and a good part of the initial excitement was gone. To this we should also add the cancellation of Nicola Luisotti as the musical director.
The stage production is by Yannis Kokkos, who designed the sets and costumes as well. It comes from the Munich Opera, where it was premiered in January 2008. I had the chance to see this staging at the 2009 July Festival of the following year, and my opinion of it hasn’t changed. The sets are very simple, just moving walls with some holes in the form of cubes. These sets are the same throughout the opera, except for “Va Pensiero” which is sung from behind a high fence that represents a prison. The only element of modernity is the transfer of the action, more or less, to contemporary times, with the Jews dressed in black and the Assyrians in helmets and dark-blue coats. It is a Nabucco that differs little from what we have seen so many times.
Ramón Tebar, curently the principal guest conductor of the Palau de les Arts, replaced Nicola Luisotti. I have to say that I did not miss Luisotti, although at first I thought that his cancellation was really bad news. Tebar’s conducting was full of energy and a true Verdi sense. This was an excellent Nabucco, far superior to others that I have seen which were led by big names. I think the Palau de Les Arts has lost an excellent opportunity to have a very good musical director in Ramón Tebar. The orchestra was the usual luxury, demonstrating that despite all the problems in recent times it is still by far the best pit orchestra in Spain. The chorus was also excellent.
Italian baritone Ambrogio Maestri replaced Leo Nucci as Nabucco, and I didn’t find him convincing. It’s not a question of voice or power, but rather of style, elegance and expressiveness. Ambrogio Maestri is a magnificent Dulcamara and an exceptional Falstaff, but Nabucco is something else, and he was disappointing in the role.
Soprano Anna Pirozzi was a formidable Abigail; she is one of the best interpreters of the character today. Her strength lies in a powerful top register and in her ability to modulate her voice, with excellent piani. Her middle range and low notes are not outstanding.
Russian bass Serguei Artamonov was a rather modest Zaccaria. He is reasonably good in the middle range, although not powerful, but he’s a little short at the bottom and problematic at the top.
American tenor Brian Jadge left a very good impression. His voice is attractive and very well suited to Ismaele. I would like to see him in other, more demanding characters to draw a definitive conclusion.
Armenian mezzo soprano Varduhi Abrahamyan was a remarkable Fenena, with a very attractive dark timbre. Her performance was well above her Adalgisa a couple of months ago in this house.
José M. Irurzun