[Met Performance] CID:188160
Nabucco {13} University Auditorium, Bloomington, Indiana: 05/15/1961.


Bloomington, Indiana
Indiana University, Auditorium
May 15, 1961

Giuseppe Verdi--Temistocle Solera

Nabucco.................Cornell MacNeil
Abigaille...............Leonie Rysanek
Ismaele.................Eugenio Fernandi
Fenena..................Helen Vanni
Zaccaria................Jerome Hines
Anna....................Carlotta Ordassy
High Priest.............Norman Scott
Abdallo.................Paul Franke

Conductor...............Thomas Schippers

Review of Walter Whitworth in the Indianapolis News

'Old-Style' Verdi Shines

Reviving an early opera written by a composer who, in his maturity, became one of the great opera composers, is often a risk. Under the most favorable and optimistic circumstances, it is a calculated risk. The Metropolitan Opera took the risk. It revived Verdi's first successful opera, "Nabucco" - not his first opera. It commissioned new scenery and costumes. It found a cast of singers who can sing: Leonie Rysanek, Helen Vanni, Cornell MacNeil, Jerome Hines and Eugenio Fernandi among others. It took a good look at the score, and found many an opportunity for dramatic solo and choral singing. And, thankfully, it won.

Indiana University's Auditorium, with its large audience, heard "Nabucco" last night, and made known its pleasure. What it listened to was, in a sense, "old-fashioned," for there were "big scenes" for the soprano, for the baritone, for the bass and, to a lesser extent, for the mezzo soprano. It also listened to excellent choral work. The score was written before Verdi had mastered the art of characterization by means of the music alone. His initial efforts, a bit uncertain and lacking in polish. His melodies were often na´ve. They did not have the power and the overwhelming beauty of later arias. They had not yet acquired subtlety.

Verdi, however, already understood the art at this early date, and understood the singer's throat. He also knew an operatic plot when he found one. To be sure, he relied on outward incident, on obviously taut moments, to give his story a swift forward movement. His genius had not yet shown him that strong inner emotions had greater force and could give his story more credibility, a more lasting quality, than reliance on conventional action. Nonetheless, by the time of "Nabucco" he had gained assurance as well as skill. His operatic footsteps may still have been on the conventional paths of his predecessors and contemporaries, but the footsteps were surprisingly firm, so firm, in fact, that the na´vetÚ is not particularly disturbing more than a century later.

It would scarcely have been disturbing with a cast of singers already mentioned. Miss Rysanek had trouble, at first, because she was hampered, so we heard, by a touch of laryngitis, but her singing was full-bodied and delightful in spite of the handicap. MacNeil is almost as good an actor as he is singer, which is saying a great deal. Hines was majestic and dignified and, as always, vocally impressive. Miss Vanni and Mr. Fernandi were admirable in smaller roles.

Thomas Schippers, one of the Met's young and gifted conductors, led the orchestra sensitively. He never lost sight of the values in the score and he never failed to respect his singers.

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