Nabucco | Opera QueenslandLeft - Michael Lewis and Andrew Collis. Intro - Cynthia Makris as Abigaille. Cover - Michael Lewis

I was one of the lucky people to have been in the audience for the opening night of what I believe to be one of Verdi’s most poignant operas. The story alone is one that provides you with an historical perspective on what is seemingly an endless battle between two warring religious factions. And I use the term factions because I believe that essentially all wars that have been fought have been fought on the same moral grounds with the same ends in mind.

This opera highlighted the conflict and ensuing struggle of the Hebrews of Jerusalem as they faced the pending sacking of their city and imprisonment by their oppressor, the pagan King of Babylon, Nabucco (Michael Lewis). The ending to this story however, is the sort of ending that you could only wish for in our very real world. The King himself after succumbing to madness which lead to him having an epiphany, repents for his blood lusting and delusions of piety and seeks forgiveness from those whom he sought to destroy.

The Director of this particular interpretation of Nabucco, David Freeman, has taken the opportunity to modernise this classic opera to provide an appeal and relevance to the story specific to his audience of today. In keeping with tradition and honouring the true masterpiece that is ‘Nabucco’, additional subtleties were used in this Verdi creation that could not be mistaken as parallels to the current political climate in the State of Israel. And through the use of costume design (Costume Designer, Dan Porta), we saw the King dressed in outfits that were similar to many well known fascists and dictators of our own time, any sense of ‘then and now’ was able to be removed. Another obvious visual comparison employed in the stage design was a large political poster containing illustrations of modern war aircraft and Saddam Hussein riding Nebuchadnezzar’s (Nabucco's) chariot.

Along this epic journey our attention is taken from the main event unfolding, which is the King’s plot to take Jerusalem for his own, and we are able to focus on the more intimate and interspersed sub plots of the main characters which are all linked to the eventual outcome. The King’s adopted daughter Abigaille (Cynthia Makris) employs subversive tactics which are fuelled by a jealousy for her sister’s love, in order to overthrow her father the King and take the throne for herself. The King’s blood daughter Fenena (Liane Keegan) who is in love with the Jew Ismaele (Bernard Hull), who is excommunicated by his people as a result, is taken hostage in an attempt to thwart the King. The Hebrew prophet Zaccaria (Andrew Collis), a true spokesman for God, tries to maintain the faith of his people and see them to their liberation which he believes is apparent.

The supporting chorus accompanying the main characters possessed a phenomonal vocal capacity which heightened the emotive atmosphere for the duration of the performance.

Tying all of this drama together and providing a seamless transition from one act to the next was the Queensland Orchestra conducted by Giovanni Reggioli. Aiding this fundamental component of any opera worth noting is a stage design of magnitude. It seemed that no expense was spared when creating Nabucco from the ground up. The Set Designer, Dan Porta, and the Lighting Designer, Nick Schlieper, should be recognised for the sizeable effort that was put into making this production of Nabucco visually binding. The enormity of this production can only be used as a testament to its excellence. For me the success of this opera was manifest in its ability to convincingly and with passion embody the significance of an age old fable within a modern context with nothing being lost in translation.

Opera Queensland presents
by Giuseppe Verdi

Venue: Lyric Theatre | Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Dates: 13 - 27 October, 2007
Evening performances: 13, 18, 20, 23, 25 (sunset) & 27 (matinee) October
30 Below (formerly Young Access) performances: 23 October at 7.30pm & 25 October at 6.30pm
Bookings: Qtix 136 246 or online

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