It is opera time again where, once again, I am reminded just how stymied I am by not having the visuals. My husband had a YouTube recording open as he listened along, which I would catch glimpses of when I came downstairs to make a cup of tea, but I stuck with Spotify. In the end, this is about the music – so it shouldn’t matter too much how beautiful the set dressing can be for the opera. Even if the sets he were seeing were glitzy Babylonian palaces and therefore a darn sight better than what we saw for Salome.
Nabucco is the third Verdi opera that I have heard, after La Traviata and Don Carlos, but it has the distinction of being his earliest piece on the list as well as the work that propelled him to classical stardom back in his day. Set in the times of King Nebuchadnezzar, Nabucco tells the story of the Jews whose lands have been conquered by the Babylonian king and their subsequent. Like most operas, Nebuchadnezzar isn’t completely accurate and, instead, a number of Babylonian kings combined.
This is probably most famous for ‘Va, pensiero’, a stirring song at the end of the third act that is sung by the Hebrew slaves as they long for home and for the time that they were not enslaved. It is stunning and, having read the libretto, I can see how a song like this would have become popular in a conquered Italy and how it lingers still as a call for people or institutions that are longing for the better days of old.