Nabucco: “The play-within-a-play idea has been done to death”
Has it? Because I totally love that idea!
Washington National Opera is currently celebrating Verdi’s Nabucco through May 21st at The Kennedy Center. Celebrating? That’s what it sounds like to me based on this review. The sets, the costumes, the “audience”..looks like you’re in for a treat! Check out the Operagasm review rundown!
O.G. Nabucco: “To underline the point, Thaddeus Strassberger, the show’s director and set designer, presents it as a play-within-a-play, enacted before a 19th-century audience with a row of armed Austrian soldiers making sure things don’t get out of hand. The play-within-a-play idea has been done to death, but I was tolerant because I got such a kick out of Strassberger’s evocation of opera of a bygone age, and without the frame, the old conventions he duplicated might have come across as wooden.”
Young Artists in the house…wooooot!: “And a couple of the young artists from the Domingo-Cafritz program acquitted themselves very well: Soloman Howard seemed to be channelling the Grand Inquistor from Verdi’s much later “Don Carlo” as a doddering High Priest of Baal with a strong bass voice, and Maria Eugenia Antunez was striking in the often invisible role of Anna. Jeffrey Gwaltney is a towering presence as the all-purpose warrior figure Abdallo, but he took a while to warm up.”
The real stars of the show: “But the main musical force were the WNO chorus and orchestra under Philippe Auguin. What the orchestra did may not have exactly been idiomatic Verdi playing — it was a little too careful and obedient — and Auguin’s tempi sometimes dragged, but it was generally clean and lively. And the chorus, which has a major if not the main role in this opera, rose to the challenge with a kind of energy and power. It was a delight to hear from the chorus.”
Time for your closeup, audience members!!!: “When the curtain calls came, Boross/Abigaille suddenly shushed the audience and began “Va, pensiero” again, while the supertitles flashed the Italian words to enable the audience to join the assembled cast in an a cappella rendering that was some of the evening’s most honest and moving singing yet. But the opening-night audience sat silent. One hopes that future audiences will warm to Strassberger’s karaoke-opera attempt and join in.”