Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Nabucco. It was last on stage 6–30 June 2016 as part of the Summer 2015/16 season.
Nabucco, King of Babylon, takes Jerusalem in his war with the Israelites – but his daughter Fenena loves the Israelite Ismaele. She releases their prisoners, leading her vengeful half-sister Abigaille to plot to take power. Nabucco declares himself a god and is struck by a bolt of lightning.
Abigaille tricks the now feeble king into signing a death warrant for the Israelites, including Fenena and Ismaele. Nabucco prays to the God of Israel for forgiveness; his sanity is restored and he saves the prisoners from death. He converts himself and his people, while Abigaille commits suicide.
Following the spectacular failure of his second opera, Un giorno di regno, Giuseppe Verdi vowed never to compose another. But he was lured back to the theatre by Bartolomeo Merelli, the impresario of La Scala, Milan, with the commission for Nabucco. The resulting opera was a triumph – first performed in 1842, it was revived the same year with a run of 57 shows. As Verdi wrote: ‘with this opera, it can truly be said that my artistic career began.’
Daniele Abbado’s production is set in the second half of the 20th century and explores the reality of conflict, where friend and enemy may become indistinguishable. An enormous chorus lends weight to epic numbers such as ‘Immenso Jehova’ – the Hebrew Slaves’ triumphant hymn of thanksgiving – and their song of exile, ‘Va, pensiero’, widely considered to be Italy’s unofficial national anthem. There are wonderful bass and baritone roles in the figures of Nabucco, the Babylonian King (based on the biblical King Nebuchadnezzar) and Zaccaria, the Hebrew prophet – while in Abigaille, Verdi created a memorable anti-heroine, at once terrifying and pitiable. Throughout, the score blends rhythmic vitality and powerful drama, and is on a scale to do justice to the opera’s epic themes.
News and features
15 September 2016
From the Queen of the Night to Turandot by way of Norma and Brünnhilde, we round up some of opera’s most devilishly difficult soprano roles.
Watch: ‘Verdi felt the people of his own nation needed a voice’ – Why Nabucco remains politically potent22 June 2016
Stars of Daniele Abbado’s production discuss why Verdi's Biblical epic was politically potent in his own time, and why it remains relevant today.
9 June 2016
What did you think of Verdi's epic opera starring Plácido Domingo?
9 June 2016
Daniele Abbado’s production starring Plácido Domingo was live-streamed online and relayed to BP Big Screens around the UK.
7 June 2016
What did you think of the return of Daniele Abbado’s powerful production of Verdi’s epic opera?
6 June 2016
Verdi shines the spotlight on the opera’s bad guys in this thrilling, ferocious duet.
Nabucco (Italian pronunciation: [naˈbukko]; short for Nabucodonosor [naˌbukoˈdɔːnozor]~[naˌbukodonoˈzɔr], English Nebuchadnezzar) is an Italian-language opera in four acts composed in 1841 by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Temistocle Solera. The libretto is based on biblical stories from the Book of Jeremiah and the Book of Daniel and the 1836 play by Auguste Anicet-Bourgeois and Francis Cornue, although Antonio Cortese's ballet adaptation of the play (with its necessary simplifications), given at La Scala in 1836, was a more important source for Solera than the play itself. Under its original name of Nabucodonosor, the opera was first performed at La Scala in Milan on 9 March 1842. Nabucco is the opera which is considered to have permanently established Verdi's reputation as a composer. He commented that "this is the opera with which my artistic career really begins. And though I had many difficulties to fight against, it is certain that Nabucco was born under a lucky star". It follows the plight of the Jews as they are assaulted, conquered and subsequently exiled from their homeland by the Babylonian King Nabucco (in English, Nebuchadnezzar II). The historical events are used as background for a romantic and political plot. The best-known number from the opera is the "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves", Va, pensiero, sull'ali dorate / "Fly, thought, on golden wings", a chorus which is regularly given an encore in many opera houses when performed today.