The Kennedy Center


About the Work

Giuseppe Verdi Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
© The Metropolitan Opera Guild, Inc.

In 1842, Giuseppe Verdi, age twenty-nine, gave the world his first work of genius in Nabucco, which struck a nation festering under Austrian domination as a call to national unification, or risorgimento. La Scala had mounted two earlier Verdi works, but Nabucco unleashed a dramatic sweep and vigor unequaled by Italian predecessors, along with a level of musical characterization worthy of Mozart.

Nabucco is an abbreviation of Nabucodonosor, or King Nebuchadnezzar of Assyria (605-562 B.C.), renowned in art history for rebuilding Babylon and making it a center of Oriental culture but notorious in the history of the Jews, whom he twice forced into captivity. For several years, according to the Biblical Book of Daniel (Chapter IV, verses 31-37), he suffered a mental disorder known as lycanthropy - imagining himself to be a wolf. Upon his recovery, he turned in thankful praise to Jehovah, god of the Hebrews. Though librettist Temistocle Solera based his text on these Scriptural incidents, the opera otherwise is a work of fiction.

's sensational premiere, at La Scala on March 9, 1842, featured the Abigaille of Giuseppina Strepponi, later Verdi's second wife. Before long, Nabucco had conquered the world's major opera houses. Donizetti supervised its production at Vienna's Kärntnertortheater. New York first heard the work at the Astor Place Opera House, on April 4, 1848. The Met premiere came on October 24, 1960. The new production, unveiled on March 8, 2001, is only the company's second.

© Copyright 2011 The Metropolitan Opera Guild, Inc. Reprinted with permission.