The Israeli Opera Verdi: Nabucco Masada, June 3

A grand spectacle.

Verdi 311 (photo credit: Yossi Tzveker)
Verdi 311
(photo credit: Yossi Tzveker)
Verdi’s opera Nabucco, performed by the Israeli Opera at Masada, was a grand spectacle.
The spectacular ingredients were all there – the imposing silhouette of the mountain as backdrop, the vast desert landscape, the generous kitschy pyrotechnics, horses and camels. The horses were no less coordinated and disciplined in their performance than the orchestra and the choir.
What the huge audience is likely to remember best after the show, however, is the deafening thunderbolt that descended first on the blaspheming Nabucco and then on the idol, the contemplative animals and, of course, the ever-popular Jewish slaves’ choir. This, predictably, triggered thunderous applause. It was repeated, as the habitual encore, not once but twice, on the initiative of conductor Daniel Oren, who also made a point of addressing the sympathetic audience with some sentimental remarks, encouraging it to join the choir in some la-la-la singing.
Joseph Rochlitz’s conventional direction was based on quantity rather than quality: Large-scale mass scenes, mostly positioned symmetrically on two levels, and abundant torches, manipulated theatrically though unimaginatively.
Most impressive were the Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion and the Opera Choir. Their performances were intensely dramatic, emotional, and also delicate when required. Oren displayed the gentle art of gradual fade-out at phrase endings, managing even to hold back the audience’s applause before the sounds had appropriately faded out in order not to spoil the subtle effect.
The singers seemed to have been a marginal element in the production.
A noteworthy exception, however, was Alberto Gazale in the title role, who displayed an authoritative and arrogant baritone at first and later the genuinely moving personal tragedy of the punished king.
As Zaccaria, Paata Burchaladze was a disappointment. Fondly remembered for the dark, powerful bass of his Russian roles in the past, he seemed not to feel quite at home in this Italian role, stumbling down rather awkwardly to the lower registers.
Mezzo-soprano Tiziana Carraro’s Fenena, the gentle, lovable and loving female role of this opera, was too assertive and aggressive, which eliminated the intended contrast to Abigail, the personification of evil. Dmitra Theodossiou, in this role, struck a touching note in her “Unrequited Love” and “Final Remorse” arias. In her displays of cruelty, however, her soprano sounded not wicked but strained, and too unsteady for comfort.
Whether this production would emerge as a major attraction also if it were performed in the Opera House, with the same staging and the same singers, remains an open question