Saturday, March 19, 2011

Emotional moment in Nabucco Romano

I thought the best would be to simply ignore this new production, but since this show was very highly profiled, celebrating 150 years since the liberation and unification of Italy, it carried much deeper meaning than just yet another production of Nabucco. All the politicians, the entire government... everybody came to see the show and to sing along the unofficial Italian national anthem Va, pensiero sul'ali dorate. You all know that this opera was very politically charged at the time, that the story about Hebrew slaves was an allegory of the situation in which lived divided Italians... and that the famous "Viva Verdi!" actually meant "Viva Vittorio Emanuele, Re d'Italia!"

First of all, my doubts were totally confirmed as far as the production goes: it is a desperately shabby show with no ground idea, without actually telling anything, with acting reduced to singers occasionally rising and opening their arms, with no scenic dynamics among protagonists whatsoever... To that add Leo Nucci [at 69] barking the hell out of Nabucco, so that even wonderfully sounding Dmitry Beloselskiy and Anna Malavasi couldn't rescue anything.

BUT, one of those big emotional moments actually happened right after the chorus ended singing Va, pensiero. A first burst of Bravi! soon converted into calls for encore (Biiiiis!), and then someone from the crowd shouted "Viva l'Italia!", Muti turned to the crowd and said
I agree with that "Viva l'Italia!" See, I'm not young anymore, but as an Italian who travels around the world I feel great pain for what's happening in Italy*. So if I respect your requests tonight and we repeat Va, pensiero, I won't do it only for patriotic reasons. Tonight --while the chorus sang Oh mia patria si bella e perduta! [Oh, my country so beautiful and lost!]-- I was thinking, if we kill the culture on which the history of Italy is founded, then our country will really be beautiful and lost.

The chorus then stood up to join a general applause. Then Muti invited everyone from the crowd to sing along and so the entire theater sang with the chorus Va, pensiero.

In the end of the aria the chorus members are the folks in the crowd were wiping their tears off...
Watch here (video of the whole show is available on Arte+7 website):

Ah bella Italia!

*) Muti is unclear on purpose: his pain can be interpreted as a reaction to the separatist movements that have recently gained in popularity both in the North and South of Italy, or it can be his reaction to the outrageous cuts by the Government on the public subsidies to opera (abrupt slash was 37%!)


  1. Hello OC,

    For me the important question is why Nabucco is still regularly performed since I've never considered it to be a good opera.

    Here is a review:


    Although some might see it as harsh, I entirely endorse his judgement of Nabucco.

  2. Well I watched this on tv as well - including interview with Muti - on Arte, before I read your post- I think it is very clear that the "purpose" that you refer to, is the cuts.
    In the interview he is unworried about other aspects that they discuss there.
    I found the scene that you describe quite moving myself!

  3. Hi UP! I get your point. It's more its political charge that matters than the musical content. That opera tells about the people divided, humiliated... and it fuels the nationalism not only in Italy or among Jews, but it can be easily applied anywhere. Opera was "theater" back then, and this piece is not really theater anymore and I believe it's simply inertia that drives the opera houses schedule this opera in their repertoire.
    From today's perspective it's theatrically tired. No dramatic dynamics -- the action is suspended and it's all reduced to shouting some arias in badly designed robes.
    I would like to see some statistics about the frequency of this opera being presented worldwide. I may well be wrong but I have a feeling we see it in theaters less and less these days.

    Anonymous, I wasn't clear? I wasn't talking about the Arte presentation, but about this special and moving moment. The show is one of the two opera events staged to celebrate 150 years since the unification of Italy, and "Va, pensiero" bears a particular significance in that respect. When after the aria Muti turns to the crowd and says "I travel around the world and when I see what happens in Italy gives me great pain" immediately brings the recent gain in popularity of the separatist movements. That moved the crowd, including all the political structure attending the show. But then he cleverly drove the issue of culture and recent cuts into the mix.
    Arte was presenting you already a packed product, which I thought was singularly badly done (and surprisingly so because that lady, Annette Gerlach, used to be more skillful in hosting these opera evenings for Arte). Anyways, cheers!

  4. We are somehow not making sense here of each other!
    I was refering to your "Muti is unclear on purpose" *.

    Well, from what I watched - German Arte recording of the performance the night or so before inlcuding what he was saying in the original Italian- the scene we are talking about was a) moving - we agree on that - b)it is obvious I feel that Muti is talking about the art cuts and not the separatist movements etc. Because in the interview (even if that is taken maybe a week or so before) he is seen unworried about Italians falling apart and stuff like that.
    He says in the interview there are some bad and some very bad ideas, but it all with a bit of humour, not like he is worried about that too much.
    I didn't like the Arte thing too much either.
    Just I don't see why he is "unclear on purpose". Obviously Italy is in a bad state generally, however the topic was art cuts.

  5. I was trying to help you understand the subtlety of the moment and how it was growing in more than one dimension. That's why I was translating Muti's speech (almost) word by word, and "unclear on purpose" was targeting that specific moment of his speech.

    Read again. If you don't get it, that's fine too ;)

  6. Ah I don't know, I think you are reading a lot into it.
    I had watched it 3 times before reading your post. It was in Italian because tv didn't translate at that moment.
    I'd say you are making too much of it.

    However, I misunderstood your "unclear on purpose" wording in the orgininal post- I thought you meant unclear on (the) purpose, whereas you mean intentionally.

    Think again. Maybe the moment wasn't that subtle and that dimensional ;).

  7. OK, you don't get it and that's just fine! Enjoy

  8. Finally Muti got what he wanted. Berlusconi approved and the government is going to get 1 euro per person from the gas and give it to culture. The art director of Piacenza, where Muti's Cherubini orchestra is based, thanked Muti for the money!
    Do you know OC if Muti gets financial support for his juvenile orchestra and generally if this is all a comedy actually in order to ensure more money for his toy-orchestra?
    Additionally he might like the idea of becoming the music director of Opera di Roma and it could be done only if he was certain that the money would flow in his bank account on a permanent basis.
    Since you know much more and you are well-informed I'd love to read your answer.