“The first time I did an opera, when the orchestra started playing, I cried. (…) The music arrives in a place of us that overwhelms us. And that is the strength of opera”confides Christiane Jatahy, who is making her first European opera production at the Grand Théâtre de Genève with the Nabuco, by Verdi, thus crowning the “Migrant Worlds” theme deployed by the Geneva season. After his Fidelioby Beethoven, staged in 2016 at the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro, a second opera with an explicitly political content, which sees the terrible confrontation between the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar II, and the people of Judah led by the high priest Zaccaria, guardian of Solomon’s temple.
Large inclined mirror at the back of the stage reflecting the room (and the public), in the center, a screen allowing the projection of video images filmed for some live by cameramen on the set: the Brazilian imagines the sophisticated device of a show in total immersion. A spectacular staging that brings together stage and room at the crossroads of the real and fictional worlds, of theater and cinema, of the intimate and the societal. The characters of the drama lose in substance what the collective absorbs. Like powerful images, such as the destruction of Solomon’s temple: a swimming pool in which the protagonists fight, where the multiplied sprays of water are transformed into a deluge of luminous rain falling inside the Grand Théâtre, while a soundtrack broadcasts the sounds of waterspouts.
Highly significant costumes – the parade of Assyrian women in burkas, wedding dresses, symbol of a stifling patriarchal power –, twilight golden lights or white vertical beams (the madness and loneliness of Nabucco) accompany the work of the winner of the Lion of gold of the Venice Biennale 2022. Oppressed, displaced, exiled, decimated are captured in their individual truth. Thus these Hebrew “migrants” whose sleep is caressed with close-up images (zoom on the abandoned hand of a woman with painted fingernails), or those whose ostensible departure separates them from the group, as if, in the general disorder, superimposed even more violent individual chaos.
A dispersed choir
The taking of the title role by Nicola Alaimo was hoped for. The great Italian baritone bestows on the King of Babylon, torn between absolute sovereignty exercised on an equal footing with God and his betrayed paternal love (Fenena converted to Judaism, Abigaille will take away his power), a deep humanity and a dramatic intelligence outstanding. Opposite him, the high priest Zaccaria by Riccardo Zanellato compensates for a diminished vocality at the extremes of the range with his nobility of tone and his elegance.
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