Nabucco - Further information
World première on March 9, 1842 in Teatro alla Scala, Milan
When offered the libretto for ‘Nabucco’ by the Impresario of the Scala in Milan, Otto Nicolai declared that the constant ‘complaining, wrath, bloodshed, fighting and murder’ would not be a proper subject for him. At a time when the romantic melodrama of Donizetti and Bellini were immensely popular, this is understandable.
‘Nabucco’ is less dominated by love turmoils than warring religious conflicts, abduction and despotism. Jerusalem is occupied by the Babylonian king Nabucco and his army. The Jews, having found refuge in their temple, fall victim to a plot by Abigaille, the king’s stepdaughter. The victorious Nabucco orders the temple to be destroyed and carries the Jews off to Babylon where a struggle for power breaks out between Abigaille and Nabucco. Nabucco declares himself God and is promptly punished for his hybris when he is struck by a thunderbolt and loses his senses. Abigaille takes advantage of Nabucco’s helpless situation and seizes power. In his desperation Nabucco prays to the God of the Jews, his reason returns and he regains power. Now converted to the Jewish faith, Nabucco promises to erect a new temple.
Verdi, who after the failure of ‘Un giorno di regno’, had decided not to compose another opera, realised the potential of the challenging material. Since the opera’s world première in 1842, the immediate emotions and theatrical temper of the music Verdi composed for ‘Nabucco’ has inspired audiences to emotional storms of enthusiasm. In particular the Hebrew’s Chorus, ‘Va pensiero’ (Fly, thought, on golden wings), became the hymn of suppressed people.