An impressive Amartuvshin Enkhbat proves to be a true Verdi baritone in Valencia’s Nabucco

SpainSpain Verdi, Nabucco: Generalitat Valenciana Chorus, Comunitat Valenciana Orchestra / Jordi Bernàcer (conductor). Palau de Les Arts, Valencia, 14.12.2019. (JMI)

Nabucco (c) Miguel Lorenzo and Mikel Ponce

Director & Sets – Thaddeus Strassberger
Costumes – Mattie Ullrich
Lighting – Mark McCullough

Nabucco – Amartuvshin Enkhbat
Abigail – Anna Pirozzi
Zaccaria – Riccardo Zanellato
Ismaele – Arturo Chacón-Cruz
Fenena – Alisa Kolosova
Priest – Dongho Kim
Anna – Sofía Esparza
Abdallo – Mark Serdiuk

Valencia’s scheduling of Nabucco had raised great expectations and not only here, due to the presence of Plácido Domingo in the lead role. He has always attracted attention, and even more so now with the accusations of sexual abuse raised in the United States. He has cancelled performances there and renounced his position at the Los Angeles Opera, though it would seem that in Europe, and in Spain in particular, condemnation without the presumption of innocence is less acceptable.

I was unable to attend the earlier Valencia performances where Domingo was the protagonist. The part was sung this time by baritone Amartuvshin Enkhbat, whose meteoric career in the last two years has made a powerful impression, and in truth he was worth the trip.

The production is by Thaddeus Strassberger, and it would appear that Plácido Domingo had a lot to do with it coming to Valencia. It was premiered during Domingo’s tenure as director of the Washington Opera and staged two years ago in Los Angeles with him in the lead role. The staging itself echoes the premiere of the opera at La Scala in 1842, when Italy was not unified and the north was held by the Austrian Empire. The set holds a reproduction of the Milan theater, with boxes to the left where the Austrian authorities sit; there are even soldiers from the Empire on stage. The costumes are based on historical fabrics from the period.

The production narrates the plot correctly, and there are none of the time changes or original touches of which modern directors are so fond. Perhaps the most curious thing in the production is that it continues in the final bows: the Austrian ladies throw bouquets to the artists which are rejected by Abigail and then by the rest of the cast. This leads to a confrontation on stage with the Austrians, while the choir sings ‘Va, pensiero’. It ends with the appearance of an Italian tricolor bearing the legend ‘Viva Verdi’.

Jordi Bernàcer conducted the work with admirable rhythm and always supported the singers; the least convincing part came in the famous overture, where there was an excess of sound. Both the orchestra and the orchestra were excellent.

Amartuvshin Enkhbat is not well known in Spain, though he has had an important career in recent years. This was not in fact his debut at Palau de Les Arts: in 2012 he sang the role of Monterone in Rigoletto. At that time, he was an immature singer, but the well-remembered Helga Schmidt, General Director at the time, must have seen something in that young man. Amartuvshin Enkhbat now has the voice of a true Verdian baritone, one perfectly suited to characters like Nabucco, and his performance was superb.

Among the other characters, I would single out soprano Anna Pirozzi, who is preeminent in the role of Abigail today – and possibly the best since the legendary Ghena Dimitrova. Her voice has considerable amplitude in the middle and at the top, where it opens up exceptionally, although the bottom notes are not up to the rest of the tessitura.

Zaccaria was played by Riccardo Zanellato, who offered a correct performance and an appealing voice. Alisa Kolosova as Fenena had an attractive and ample voice, especially in the middle range. Tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz did well in the part of Ismael, as did Sofia Esparza as Anna. I was also impressed by Dongho Kim as Grand Priest.

José M. Irurzun

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