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Opera de Quebec.

Last presented by Opera de Quebec in 1995, Nabucco returned to the stage of the Grand Theatre to close the company's 35th season on May 11th. Leaving behind its original historic, biblical context, Manitoban director Michael Cavanagh transposed the work into the 21st century, taking patrons out of the 'traditional' comfort zone usually adopted by the company for Verdi. With its kippas, rifles and modern day soldiers, we were in the midst of today's Israel-Palestinian conflict, which in keeping with the original libretto, finds Israel at the knees of their Middle-Eastern adversaries. During the first two Acts, with his epaulettes and beret, Cavanagh's Nabucco was every inch the modern day dictator.

In terms of design, the production utilized projections on oversized wall hangings to represent columns on the temple of Solomon as well as Nabucco's palace. Though imposing, the overall effect was a deadening grayness that would have benefited from some brighter lighting.

The updated concept gave this Nabucco a particularly contemporary relevance. In Verdi's time, Italians recognized an allusion to Austrian rule and a call for independence in the opera's most famous number, the "Va pensiero" chorus. In Cavanagh's version--with the Hebrews imprisoned behind a barbed-wire fence, guarded by four gun-wielding soldiers--we recognize the Jews of the Nazi concentration camps or even the thousands of refugees held at borders throughout the world, waiting for a better future.

In this opera, the chorus is omnipresent: in the prayers and supplications of the Jews and in the triumphant choruses of the Assyrian soldiers, they participate in practically every scene. Well-prepared by Real Toupin, the Opera de Quebec Chorus was at the height of its powers, demonstrating homogenity of tone and powerful ensemble.

Most of the soloists in the almost-all-Canadian cast have proven themselves with the company in the past. Baritone James Westman's Nabucco offered a convincing portrayal in his arrogance and self-importance, later supplanted by delirium. His round and warm tone, perfect for the last two Acts where he displayed much emotion and musicality, was lacking in volume when trying to convey the martial side of his character.

Although a bit static, Italian bass Giovanni Battista Parodi powerfully embodied a majestic Zaccaria, protector of the Jewish people and courageous opponent of Nabucco.

Tenor Steeve Michaud sings with the ease and remarkable vocal projection that are necessary for Ismaele's more passionate outbursts, but could use some refinement for his more expressive passages. Soprano Michele Capalbo's fiery temperament conveyed Abigaille's cruelty and obsession with power but also, pathos in her death scene'. She impressed with her vocal agility and a beautiful palette of vocal colours. Unfortunately at the end of Act II some of her vocal passages emerged throaty.

As Nabucco's daughter, Genevieve Levesque accurately embodied Fenena's sensibility as the victim of Abigaille's jealousy. She sang her Act IV aria, "O dischiuso e il firmamento" with emotion. Bass Alain Coulombe was excellent as the Grand Priest of Baal and Jessica Latouche, a compassionate Anna.

Verdi's rich score, with its detailed instrumental solos, was played with conviction by the Orchestre symphonique de Quebec under the experienced and attentive direction of Giuseppe Grazioli. --Irene Brisson
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Title Annotation:QUEBEC CITY
Author:Brisson, Irene
Publication:Opera Canada
Geographic Code:1CQUE
Date:Jun 22, 2019
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