The Prague National Theater will premiere Verdi’s Nabucco

The Prague National Theater will premiere Verdi’s Nabucco

Saturday, February 10, 2024 09:15

Even in the Year of Czech Music, the domestic opera scene finds space to present titles of world opera literature. From February 15, the National Theater in Prague will include Verdi’s Nabucco on its stage at the State Opera. The production of the dramatic story about the subjugation of the Israelites by the Babylonian king was prepared in co-production with the Slovak National Theatre. The premieres will take place on February 15 and 17, and the first Prague stage will present the title eleven more times by the end of the season.

The opera Nabucco was Verdi’s first major success and launched the then 28-year-old composer’s path to fame. The subject was forced upon Verdi by his impresario Bartolomeo Merelli at a time when Verdi was troubled by his failures and doubted the meaning of his compositional work. It is said that when Verdi came home, he threw the libretto of Temistocles Solera on the table in annoyance, but the book opened with the verse “Va pensiero”, which left a deep impression on Verdi and the composer set to work. The famous chorus to this verse later became not only one of the most popular passages of the opera, but also the unofficial anthem of the Italian national movement for liberation and unification, and it still holds a special position in Italian society. He was so strongly associated with Verdi that crowds of onlookers spontaneously began to sing along to him during his funeral procession through the crowded streets of Rome.

Timeless and still relevant themes of expansionist war, desire for power, betrayal, intrigue, love, life and death are the reason why Nabucco is a permanent part of the repertoire of the world’s opera houses. The libretto freely combines historical realities with biblical legend and poetic fantasy. Above all, the inspiration in  Psalm 137 and biblical symbolism is the basis of the concept of the current production of the National Theater under the direction of guest director and stage designer Tomáš Ondřej Pilař , who is currently the head of the opera in České Budějovice. ” Under the skin of the fascinating and spectacular choir scenes, a timeless family drama takes place, which in our production we call the metaphor of the desert. It gradually captures the scenic space inspired by the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, ” explained Tomáš Ondřej Pilař about his concept . The Nabucco scene at the State Opera is being prepared by Petr Vítek , the costume designer Dana Haklová took charge , both of them are collaborating with the Prague National Theater for the first time. This staging trio already participated in the presentation of Nabucco at the Slovak National Theatre, where this production premiered at the turn of September and October last year under the baton of Pietro Rizzi .

Musically, Nabucco is still appealing today not only with its spectacular choral scenes, but also with its dramatic virtuoso arias. On the stage of Prague, the musical performance of the title will be performed by the music director of the State Opera and conductor Andrij Jurkevyč in collaboration with the debuting Polish conductor Piotr Staniszewski . ” It is very important, one could say an epoch-making work, both for musical theater and from a social point of view. It is relevant for the times we are in now, for people who are on the path of spiritual search, or for those who need such a stimulus. The spiritual search of the individual characters of this opera, of entire nations, which is described both in the Bible and in this opera work, should not leave anyone indifferent – from the audience to the performers, ” said conductor Andrij Jurkevyč about the meaning of the work.

The title role will be played by the Georgian baritone Nikoloz Lagvilava , who made his debut at the National Theater in the 2020/21 season, in the title role of the opera Rigoletto . Lagvilava is a soloist at the Aalto Theater and the Philharmonic in Essen, Germany, and performs regularly in other opera houses in Germany, Norway, France and Slovakia. Ukrainian baritone Štěpán Drobit , who made his debut at the National Theater Opera in August last year, will sing Nabucca in Prague as Germont in  La traviata . The feared role of Abigail in the new production will be played by another debutant, the South Korean soprano Lilla Lee . A specialist in the Italian repertoire, she studied at the conservatories in Milan and Novara, at the Arturo Toscanini Academy in Parma and at the Orazio Vecchi – Antonio Tonelli Institute of Musical Studies in Modena under the direction of Raina Kabaivanská . She successfully performed on a number of opera stages in Italy, including the famous Venetian stage of La Fenice, but also in other European countries. Alternatively, the role of Abigail will be taken by the Ukrainian soprano Oksana Nosatova , a former soloist of the Donetsk Opera Theater, for whom Nabucco is also her debut on the Prague stage.

In the role of Fenena, the Czech mezzo-soprano Markéta Cukrová will perform as a guest and  Stanislav Jirků as a soloist of the Prague Opera. The role of Izmael was staged by Richard Samek and  Josef Moravec , Ivo Stánčev and  Iurie Maimescu will perform as Zacharias . In other roles, visitors to the State Opera will see Jan Hnyk or Miloš Horák as the High Priest Baal, Veronika Kaiserová or Eliška Gattringerová in the role of Anna, and Vít Šantora , Zdeněk Haas and  Michal Bragagnolo will alternate in the role of Abdall . The Choir of the State Opera will be led by Alessandro Zuppardo , choreographed by Martin Šinták, members of the Ballet of the National Theater Opera and pupils of the Olga Kyndlové Ballet School will dance .

Until the end of this season , the premiere of the opera Le Grand Macabre by György Ligeti will take place on the stage of the Prague State Opera , which is scheduled for mid-June.

Photo: from rehearsal – National Theater Prague / Zdeněk Sokol