|Philip Newton photo|
Before Verdi composed Aida, La traviata, and Rigoletto, some of the world’s most treasured operas, Nabucco was his first operatic masterpiece. In fact, Nabucco’s famous chorus, “Va, pensiero,” is so beloved in the composer’s native Italy, it’s become somewhat of an unofficial Italian anthem.
“Nabucco has everything that an audience looks for in an opera: a strong, uncompromising, almost Shakespearean drama told through music that’s thrilling and direct,” said General Director Aidan Lang. “It demands virtuoso singing from its protagonists, and we have lined up a stellar cast that will deliver the work to its full potential. Coupled with an innovative staging concept, we have all the ingredients for a truly compelling night in the theater.”
The opera tells the story of Nebuchadnezzar (or “Nabucco”), the mad king of Babylon who declares himself God. The powerful, fearsome Abigaille, daughter of one of his wives, feeds his ego in her own quest for power; meanwhile Nabucco’s own daughter, Fenena, resists her father and helps the enslaved Hebrews escape from bondage. In this powerful epic, Verdi uses an Old Testament story to give voice to a people yearning for freedom.
The star-studded cast includes bass-baritone Gordon Hawkins as Babylon’s unhinged ruler and soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams as the fierce Abigaille. Both of these celebrated artists wowed audiences in Porgy and Bess (2010), Hawkins as the title character and Williams as Serena, the performance for which she won the Seattle Opera Artist of the Year Award. Hawkins has starred in many Seattle Opera productions, including Il trovatore (2010) and the Ring (2009), and Williams most recently gave a passionate performance as the title character in Tosca (2015). Additionally, one of the opera world’s hottest rising stars, Jamie Barton, makes her Seattle Opera debut fresh off her win of the prestigious 2015 Richard Tucker Award.
Returning singers include tenor Russell Thomas. Most recently the title character in The Tales of Hoffmann (2014), Thomas will sing Ismaele, the Israelite whom Fenena loves. Weston Hurt, baritone, will sing Nabucco in the alternate cast. Hurt made his Seattle Opera debut as Germont in La traviata (2009) and returned to sing Ford in Falstaff (2010).
Also making company debuts are the two singers in the role of Zaccaria, the Hebrew High Priest: Christian Van Horn, bass-baritone, and Andreas Bauer, bass, (alternate cast). Soprano Raffaella Angeletti stars alongside Bauer in the alternate cast as Abigaille. Other featured singers include Jonathan Silvia (High Priest of Baal), Eric Neuville (Abdallo), and Karen Early Evans (Anna).
Nabucco premieres Saturday, August 8, and runs through Saturday, August 22. Running simultaneously with Verdi’s epic is the world premiere of An American Dream (August 21 and 23), which also explores themes of exile and belonging.
Tickets are available online at seattleopera.org or by calling 206.389.7676 or 800.426.1619. Tickets may also be purchased at the Box Office by visiting 1020 John Street (two blocks west of Fairview), Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Ticket prices start at $25. Groups save 15 percent: 206.676.5588. Seattle Opera Ticket Office: 206.389.7676/800.426.1619. Online orders: seattleopera.org.
Follow #SONabucco on Twitter, Facebook and listen to excerpts of the opera on Soundcloud.