Placido Domingo: Nabucco at the Arena of Verona

Verona,  Arena di Verona  Opera  Festival, Centenary Season 2013.
Opera in four acts, libretto by Temistocle Solera
Composer Giuseppe Verdi

Orchestra and Chorus of the Arena di Verona
Conductor Julian Kovatchev
Chorus master Armando Tasso
Director Gianfranco De Bosio
Set design Rinaldo Olivieri
Verona,  4th July  2013.

That the fourth performance of  Nabucco in this season’s Arena festival was a special evening, was apparent by the unaccustomed capacity audience(even opening night wasn’t a full house), a palpable air of expectancy and an elegantly attired stalls.  Only a sensational event like this year’s opening with a La Fura dels Baus production or a performance of Domingo(as singer) can assure a sold out  Arena. And 4th July was the first of only two performances this summer of Domingo, in his transformation from tenor to baritone, in the role of Nabucco, a role well run in after performances in London at Covent Garden, St. Petersburg at the Mariinsky 2, and Beijing at the NCPA.(reviewed in this magazine).  The audience followed the performance with hushed attention, quite unusual for the customary festive exuberance of  the Arena audience, in particular at  Domingo galas. Domingo repaid them generously, giving unsparingly of his vocal and theatrical resources.
 As seen at hi s performance in Beijing,  Domingo brings all his available resources to the role: a role which seems to define the natural progression of  all aspects of his maturity, vocal, musical and human.  If the depth and colour of the baritone voice  was found lacking, he skilfully  compensated by adding weight and intensity to every single note and word,  to give dramatic  edge and significance, without resorting to senseless effects.  He charged the baritone range with the  natural ringing,  burnished  quality of  his voice.  He tastefully refrained, as he had in Beijing, from forcing or enlarging the voice,  even though the immensity of the Arena must have been a temptation to do so.Instead, he extracted the maximum pathos from the music and words, and his commanding physique and stage presence definitely contributed to creating the aura of majesty and power of his character.The prayer,  Dio di Giuda was interpreted with heart-rendering intensity.  The whole of Domingo’s performance proved well calibrated and intelligently administered.
Tatiana Melnychenko‘s Abigaille has grown in both vocal firmness and stage-craft  since opening night.  She displayed technical security,  a smooth vocal extension and control, and a sustained and expressive lyric line. Vitalj Kowaljow gave a beautifully expressive performance as Zaccaria,  infusing each word with significance.  The voice, well-focused and endowed with a vibrant timbre was homogeneous throughout the range.  Only the very lowest notes resulted a little light. Lorenzo Decaro, was a solid Ismaele, although the role would gain from a greater variety of colour. Sanja Anastasia was a convincing Fenena, but the unnecessarily darkened voice laboured under an obtrusive vibrato. Carlo Bosi was a competent and effective Abdallo.  The other parts were the same as the premiere.  The orchestra, conducted by Julian Kovatchev, was not at its most attentive.  The Va pensiero theme in the Sinfonia was excruciatingly out of tune, out of time and lacking in agreement on the dotted values from the wind soloists. The orchestra slipped and slid through the first finale (taken at break-neck speed, perhaps to balance out the accommodating tempos conceded to Domingo), and at various times throughout the performance,  chorus and orchestra were  out of sync. The most musically satisfying moment of the opera came from the cannon quartet and ensemble in the second act  finale, where individual colours, dynamics and musical intention were, in turn, highlighted and amalgamated, by both soloists and orchestra alike. Photo Ennevi for Arena of Verona