Award winning director Ellen Kent graced Cardiff with her tour of Verdi’s Nabucco this week. The story’s libretto is studded with themes of jealously, revenge and suffering, amid both a romantic and a political plotline. The audience followed the opression of the Jews through their exile by King Nabucco, whilst his oldest daughter Abigaille struggled with unrequited love, and is handed her true origins as a slave.
“Hers is the Las Vegas of opera,” wrote one journalist after viewing one of Kent’s previous shows. Although the St David’s Hall wasn’t exactly a concert hall on the Vegas strip, the small stage instead brought a fresh, intimate feel to the performance, with the dramatic stage lighting and magnificent set design still retaining the grandeur that the Opera deserves.
It was Abigaille who, to me, was the stand out role. Perrier Olga, a young dramatic soprano and graduate of the prestigious Academy of Music in Odessa State, commanded the stage with both a moving voice and menacing facial expressions (the combination of which gave me chills). I fully believed her, she was powerfully engaging and truly talented. Equally good was Nabucco, a character in need of a flourishing performance in order to show a progression in an emotional disintegration throughout the Opera. Additionally, the full orchestra captivated the audience from start to finish, allowing the chorus to take center stage when needed, but not being afraid to flourish all on its’ own.
Overall, there wasn’t a dull moment during the performance, and the chorus were impeccable. However, there were times when it wasn’t as fluid as I’d like to have seen. For example, myself and audience members weren’t too impressed by the executioner’s cloak flying up in one of the last acts to reveal a hoodie and a pair of jeans. Also, I did hear a collective ‘tut’ when a couple of the Jewish characters appeared on stage with black framed glasses, something not really around in biblical times.
These mistakes aside, there was no faulting Kent’s production and her talented cast; the standing ovation at its finale was richly deserved!
by Penelope Barnes