Nabucco

Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar) was only Verdi’s third opera but its success established his reputation. At Verdi’s funeral, crowds in the street spontaneously broke into the opera’s popular and moving chorus of the Hebrew slaves, Va, Pensiero. Often recognized as a symbol of oppression in the struggle for Italian independence, the romance- and political intrigue-filled opera is based on both a French play and a Biblical story about the flight of the Jews from heir homeland after their conquest and exile at Nebuchadnezzar’s hands. As Nabucco enters Jerusalem, High Priest Zaccaria counsels the Jews to trust in God and takes Nabucco’s younger daughter Fenena hostage to try and secure peace. He entrusts Fenena’s safety to Ismaele, nephew of the King of Jerusalem, unaware that Ismaele and Fenena are in love. Nabucco’s elder daughter Abigaille, also in love with Ismaele, threatens to accuse Ismaele of treason if he does not give up Fenena. While Nabucco is away at war, Fenena converts to Judaism and Abigaille tries to seize Nabucco’s throne. When he returns, he condemns the Jews to death but is devastated to learn Fenena will perish with them. Determined to rescue Fenena, Nabucco sets the Jews free, embraces their God and pledges to build a new temple.

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