Two operas in three days. Last night it was Nabucco from the Royal Opera House; not such a marathon as the screening from the Met on Saturday, and rather more successful, I thought, as an experience (though of course I’m not entitled to judge the music). Like Giulio Cesare it was staged in modern dress. The 40s costumes were very downbeat compared with the Met’s gorgeousness, but somewhat appropriate for a story of the Jews undergoing persecution and enslavement. There were polystyrene monoliths representing the Temple of Jerusalem, a gyrating chorus, some puzzling back projections and a number of chicken wire idols (Baal).
They got away with it, though, because the story was allowed to remain both religious and political, and one could see how it related to the Italy of its time (unlike Giulio Cesare, which was forced, it seemed to me, into an inappropriate Romantic mould, when its heart lay in an Enlightenment apprehension of the classical world).
Placido Domingo sang Nabucco, obviously knocking on a bit but still game, and it’s impossible not to have Lear in mind when watching an old man deal with difficult daughters, lending the role an extra subtext of pathos and irony. Liudmyla Monastyrska, who sang Nabucco’s power-hungry un-daughter Abigaille, was suitably alarming: she could have grilled steaks with her gaze alone, and to stand anywhere near her mouth while she was giving forth must be like being directly in the beam of a disinto-ray gun.
Maybe if I keep going I’ll understand opera one day…