Verdi: Hitting Close to Home
Italian born Giuseppe Verdi was in his musical prime when his Nabucco premiered in the world famous La Scala in Milan, Italy in March of 1842. This classic Italian opera, complete with an over the top sibling rivalry, death, deceit, and uncontrollable puppy love present in any melodramatic love story, is a holy derivation of the Babylonian captivity of the Jews in the 6th Century BC. When Verdi premiered Nabucco in the then-Austrian-occupied-Italy, the Italian spectators could relate to the Jewish plight, whilst the Austrian show-goers could undeniably understand the similarities between their Austrian Empire to that of the oppressing Babylonians.
Fast forward 170 plus years, and Director Thaddeus Strassberger aims to relive those tension filled 19th-Century-Eastern-European-days by bringing such unease to the Opera Philadelphia at the Academy of Music. This venue is a perfect fit for any historically significant opera as it boasts an enormous chandelier, giant, visually pleasing support columns topped off with ridiculous ornamentation, and an overall grandeur fit for even the most shrewd opera-goers out there. The staging is simple, mostly comprised of two dimensional murals and hand-held props. The props used by the characters were crafted well enough to get the point across, although the audience can tell the props are fake. The murals, on the other hand, are drawn with great detail and allow the audience to imagine the vast expanse of desert dotted by ziggurats to inner palace chambers. The costumes are well crafted, colorful, and are a good complement to the background. The costumes, makeup, and hairstyles give insight into what the Jews and Babylonians would have worn in the 6th Century BC. Director Strassberger takes a different approach to re-creating Nabucco by using areas of the opera house other than the stage to capture the Risorgimento movement in Italy. He does so by ingeniously introducing a side story independent...
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