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Union Avenue Opera Presents Giuseppe Verdi's "Nabucco"

Marsha Thompson will make her Union Avenue Opera debut as Abigaille in "Nabucco." | photo courtesy Union Avenue Opera (click for larger version)
July 11, 2018
Union Avenue Opera's second offering of the summer is Giuseppe Verdi's grand opera, "Nabucco" (July 27, 28, Aug. 3, 4). The story is taken from the Old Testament account of the Babylonian conquest of the Hebrew people by King Nebuchadnezzar II.

Librettist Temistocle Solera took many dramatic liberties with the tale and made it into a proper opera plot by adding a treacherous love triangle between two Babylonian princesses and Ismaele, the nephew of the King of the Jerusalem, and an attempt by one of the daughters, Abigaille, to usurp the throne. By the end of the opera the evil princess is dead and the king, descending into madness, declares the God of the Hebrews the true God.

"Nabucco" was the opera that cemented Verdi's position in Italian opera. He was only 28 years old when he wrote it, and it came after a devastating two year hiatus from composing during which time both of his children and his wife died. Verdi claimed that words from the chorus "Va pensiero, sull'ali dorate" (Go thought, on golden wings) were what brought him back into the world of composing. He is quoted as saying, "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."

Many years later, when Verdi was interred after his death, a young Arturo Toscanini led a choir of more than 800 in singing "Va pensiero," a fitting musical tribute to the great man.

Union Avenue Opera's production of "Nabucco" will be directed by Mark Frieman, an artist who has appeared frequently on the UAO stage, but is making his UAO directorial debut with this show. Montreal-based conductor Stephen Hargreaves returns to the orchestra pit after his successful production of "Tosca" two years ago.

The cast is made up of a mix of returning singers and debut artists: Nabucco – Robert Garner (most recently seen at UAO as the elder Germont in "La traviata") Abigaille – Marsha Thompson (debut artist), Fenena – Melody Wilson (Mrs. Miller in "Doubt"), Jesse Donner (debut artist) and Zaccaria – Zachary James (the Mikado, "Mikado").

Centro Modern Furnishings, 4727 McPherson Ave., will host an opera preview event for "Nabucco" on Thursday, July 19, from 6 to 7 p.m. Admission is free. "Nabucco" tickets may be purchased at www.unionavenueopera.org or by calling 314-361-2881.

Scott Schoonover is the founder, artistic director and principal conductor of Union Avenue Opera.

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