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.’
Act I: Jerusalem
The Jews are praying that
the Assyrian hordes who have laid siege to Jerusalem will be scattered
and that the Throne of David will be freed of the impious.
The high priest Zaccaria tells of hopes for their deliverance –
the Jews have taken Fenena, Nabuccoґs youngest daughter, and she will act
as a powerful bargaining weapon in the talks with the King of
The commander Ismaele brings news that Nabucco has launched
an attack. Zaccaria wishes to entrust Ismaele with guarding Fenena, but it
turns out that the young people are in love with each other… Ismaele
swears he will free his beloved.
Babylonian warriors burst in, headed by
Abigaille, Nabuccoґs eldest daughter who is also in love with Ismaele…
Abigaille proclaims Nabuccoґs glory. Finally the King of Babylon himself
enters. Fenena rushes to her father then to Ismaele, but Zaccaria manages to
catch her and raises his dagger over her. Nabucco tries to gain time, while
Abigaille hopes that now her sister and rival will die. Suddenly Ismaele
snatches the dagger from Zaccaria and frees Fenena. Defeated, the Jews
are overpowered by the Assyrians; they curse Ismaele.
Act II: The impious one
Once again Nabucco departs with
his warriors for Judea, leaving Fenena on the throne. Meanwhile Abigaille
has managed to obtain and destroy a document which states that in fact
she is not Nabuccoґs daughter but the daughter of slaves. The high
priest of Baal informs her that Fenena has freed the captive Jews and that
conspirators have already spread news of Nabuccoґs death in order to
proclaim Abigaille queen.
Zaccaria proclaims a new miracle of the God of
Israel – Fenena, daughter of the King of Babylon, has adopted the Jewish
faith. Once again the Levites curse Ismaele, but Anna tells them that
Fenena, whom he saved, is from now on one of them, and so Ismaele is
Abdallo tells of the death of Nabucco and implores Fenena to flee,
but she has no intention of surrendering the throne to her sister.
As Abigaille tries to seize the crown from her Nabucco appears.
The Assyrian warriors again swear allegiance to him. Nabucco orders
the destruction of the Jews but Fenena tries to save them, declaring
that she is one of them.
Nabucco declares himself God. Heaven punishes him by
driving him insane. The crown is now in Abigailleґs hands.
Act III: The prophecy
The insane Nabucco enters. Abigaille deceives him into surrendering
the ring with the seal in order to ensure the death sentence
on the people of Israel is carried out. Nabucco understands that this means
the death of Fenena too. In an attempt to save his daughter he
reminds Abigaille of her slave roots; in return Abigaille shows him
the fragments of the tablet stating her true birth. Nabucco is taken
Imprisoned by the Babylonians, the Jews recall their
lost homeland. Zaccaria foretells the salvation of Israel and the fall
Act IV: The broken idol
In his dungeon cell Nabucco
hears cries of "Death to Fenena!" In despair he rejects the idols of
Babylon and turns to the God of Israel. Together with Nabuccoґs loyal
warriors, Abdallo frees his king and restores his crown.
The Jews are
awaiting execution. Nabucco appears, proclaiming the God of Israel. Coming
together, the Jews and Assyrians join him. Abigaille has taken some poison.
With her dying words she begs forgiveness of Fenena and turns to Jehovah