Spain Verdi, Nabucco: Teatro Real Chorus (chorus director: Andrés Máspero), Teatro Real Orchestra / Nicola Luisotti and Sergio Alapont (conductors). Teatro Real, Madrid, 16, 18, 19 & 20.7.2022. (JMI)
Director – Andreas Homoki
Sets and Costumes – Wolfgang Gussmann
Lighting – Frank Evin
Nabucco – Luca Salsi / George Gagnidze / Gabriele Viviani / Luis Cansino
Abigaille – Anna Pirozzi / Saioa Hernández / Ewa Plonka
Zaccaria – Alexander Vinogradov / Roberto Tagliavini / Simon Lim
Ismaele – Michael Fabiano / Eduardo Aladrén
Fenena – Silvia Tro Santafé / Elena Maximova / Aya Wakizono
High Priest of Baal – Simon Lim / Felipe Bou
Abdallo – Fabián Lara
Anna – Maribel Ortega
This popular Giuseppe Verdi opera has finally returned to the Teatro Real stage, where it had not been seen since the theatre’s reopening in October 1997; the previous performance, in fact, was 151 years earlier. It could be seen in Madrid at the Teatro de la Zarzuela, but that was 50 years ago.
The Teatro Real had programed three different casts for these performances, which was finally extended to four due to the cancellation of Amartuvshin Enkhbat who was to have sung the role of Nabucco in the first cast.
The Andreas Homoki staging is a co-production with the Zurich Opera, where it was premiered in 2019. It is an adequate production but not greatly original. Homoki offers what the Italians surely experienced at the opera’s premiere, which was Verdi’s first major triumph: the confrontation on stage between Jews and Assyrians becomes one between Italians and Austrians.
The costumes correspond to the time of the opera’s premiere with the Italians in light colors and the Austrians in gala suits and military uniforms, and the minimal set consists of a large wall of green malachite that rotates several times. Homoki focuses here on moving the characters and the chorus about on stage, which he does properly. I do think that better lighting would have been a help.
Most of the performances were conducted by Nicola Luisotti, backed up by Sergio Alapont. Luisotti is always a sure thing in this repertoire, and he proved it once again. Few conductors are so notable in Verdi operas, and his reading was excellent. The Teatro Real Orchestra was brilliant, as was the Teatro Real Chorus, and on each night they had to give an encore of ‘Va, pensiero’ after almost endless ovations from the audience. The Sergio Alapont reading seemed to me correct after an excessively noisy overture.
Nabucco was sung in the first cast by baritone Luca Salsi, who replaced Amartuvshin Enkhbat, and he was superb. There are not many genuine Verdi baritones, and Luca Salsi is one of the best there is, with a voice that exhibits amplitude and beauty. His performance was satisfying overall, especially in the second part of the opera; I confess that I expected more from him in Act I.
George Gagnidze was unconvincing, as I have experienced on previous occasions. His voice is wide, but there are two important issues: he has a projection problem – his voice does not come off the stage – and his high notes are always pushed and open. Gabriele Viviani was also a substitute (though in this case, not at the last minute), taking the place of George Petean. Viviani’s voice is what we can truly call a Verdi baritone, with good timbre, but he is somewhat short on nuances and fails to convey emotion to the audience.
The fourth Nabucco was Luis Cansino who is building an important career, but one doesn’t often see him in important roles at top opera houses. I was surprised by his presence here but found his performance dignified on the whole. He did well on stage though with a certain tendency to open sounds. It was not an exceptional Nabucco, but it worked.
Abigaille in the first cast was Anna Pirozzi, who has become the top dramatic soprano in Italian opera. She has a beautiful, grand voice, without problems at either end of the range – she is perfectly audible in the low notes and shines in the high ones. She is probably the Abigaille of this generation. In the second cast, the best of the night was the Abigaille of soprano Saioa Hernández. She has a lovely voice with great amplitude, shining in the upper part of the tessitura and sufficient in the low notes.
The next Abigaille should have been Oksana Dyka, but she canceled and was replaced by soprano Ewa Plonka, who had just sung the same character a few days ago at the Verona Arena and was the big triumph of the night. She was more lyrical than dramatic here, brilliant in the high notes but falling short in the low ones.
In the first cast, bass Dmitry Belosselskiy had been listed as Zaccaria, but he canceled, apparently due to illness. He was replaced by Alexander Vinogradov, who was convincing in the part with a wide, well-suited voice and no problems with the range. Belosselskiy’s absence brought with it a real merry-go-round of Zaccaria interpreters and, in the second cast, the choice fell on Simon Lim who, the day before, had been the interpreter of the High Priest, where his voice made a favorable impression. It must be said that Zaccaria has little to do with the High Priest, and Lim falls short in this important part. Roberto Tagliavini as Zaccaria sang elegantly, but his voice lacks a bit of power. at both ends of the tessitura.
As Ismaele, tenor Michael Fabiano replaced the initially announced Piero Pretti. Fabiano gave one of the best performances that I can remember from him. This is a character who does not sing excessively while being quite central to the opera, which suited him nicely. Eduardo Aladrén as Ismaele demonstrated his well-known voice, although his singing is not very refined.
Fenena had mezzo-sopranos Silvia Tro Santafé, Elena Maximova and Aya Wakizono as interpreters. All three were correct but, for my taste, Elena Maximova was the best.
In the secondary characters, Simon Lim was an excellent High Priest, with a powerful and attractive voice, far better than Felipe Bou. Maribel Ortega as Anna and Fabián Lara as Abdallo were fine.
José M. Irurzun