Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond
A Masked Baal
October 17, 2011
And on Saturday there was Nabucco. Verdi’s early masterpiece returned to the Metropolitan Opera this season in the monumental 2001 Elijah Moshinsky production. It is above all else a spectacle and by a twist of fate, I somehow ended up seeing the show from the rarified environs of a center Parterre Box. (No not that one, a real one.) And my location couldn’t have been more appropriate for a show that’s one big rotating mountain of an extravaganza. Certainly the Met has other ostentatious productions on its current roster, but few have that Old Testament glamor best seen at a respectful distance. Perched atop it all in these first performances this season is the star who made her mark in that original run, Maria Guleghina. How the past ten years have treated her, I can’t say, but her reprisal of the role, complete with clinging gowns and big blond frizzy wigs, threw itself wholeheartedly into camp. Guleghina has a knack for this kind of performance as seen in last season’s Turandot and she is certainly entertaining on that camp level even if she isn’t always the most pleasant to listen to. She still manages Abigaille pretty well, though her forced, shrieked high notes will tend to knock one upside the head.
Her Nabucco this time around was the popular baritone Zeljko Lucic who gives a younger, sexier take on this king dethroned by God and his daughter’s own plotting. His take on “Dio di Giuda” was more cry of defiance than moment of spiritual enlightenment, but he’s likable here. There were some other fine singers in smaller roles in this cast. Carlo Colombara was a burnished Zaccaria who never succumbed to bluster. Yonghoon Lee was Ismaele a role small enough for this fine singer that it frustrates the audience who is deprived of hearing more of him here. And speaking of big talent in smaller parts, the show also featured the young Amber Wagner as Anna. She stood out in her precious few moments, but she’ll get another big break later this fall when she kicks off performances of the title role in Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos filling in for Deborah Voigt who withdrew from this part of the production.
Of course Nabucco is mostly about the chorus and Donald Palumbo and his choristers delivered a performance up to the company’s overall high standards. Paolo Carignani was in the pit with the orchestra and they delivered some rock ‘em sock ‘em Verdi for a staging that pretty much insists on it. And while all this may not make for a great opera, it certainly makes for an entertaining evening. There are two more performances with Guleghina this week before she steps out for Marianne Cornetti and Elisabete Matos later this month.