Nabucco at the Verona Arena. July 2021
PART I – Jerusalem
Jerusalem is besieged by Nabucco, king of Babylon. Zacharias, the Great Pontiff, encourages the Jewish people taking refuge in the temple of Solomon and reassures them that it is still possible to negotiate peace: the daughter of the enemy, Fenena, has been captured. Zechariah entrusts it to Ishmael, nephew of the king of Jerusalem. In reality, the Pontiff does not know that the two young people have known and loved each other for a long time. Ambassador to Babylon, Ishmael had been taken prisoner and Fenena had saved him. In the same way, the young man now tries to free his beloved, but is blocked by a handful of Babylonian warriors disguised as Jews and led by Abigaille, another daughter of Nabucco, inclined to deception and command. She too loves Ishmael, but she considers love a political issue, even more than a question of the heart, to be used as a bargaining chip. She accuses the young man of treason and accuses him of offering him the kingdom of Babylon in exchange for her love for him. However, she is willing to give up revenge if Ismaele leaves Fenena. He refuses, he is not afraid of dying, he only asks for mercy for his people. Meanwhile, outside is the catastrophe. Other Jews take refuge in the temple. When Nabucco bursts into it, Zaccaria tries the extreme: he threatens to kill Fenena, but Ismaele blocks him and hands the young woman over to her father. Nabucco starts the destruction of the temple.
PART II – The wicked
Abigaille, alone in the royal apartments, holds a parchment stolen from Nabucco in her hands, attesting to her humble origins as a slave. Her anger explodes into an irrepressible fury at the news that Fenena, appointed Regent by her father, has given the order to free all the Jews. By now Abigaille is determined to do anything to seize the throne. Zacharias, a prisoner of the Assyrians, enters a hall of the palace followed by a Levite who brings the Tablets of the Law and, after having urged God to speak through his lip, withdraws. Ishmael, summoned by the High Priest to answer for his betrayal, is cursed by the Levites, but Anna, sister of Zacharias, defends him; in fact, the young man did not save the life of an infidel but a Jewess, since the daughter of the enemy king has in the meantime converted to the Law. The situation precipitates: in a very rapid succession of events Abigaille bursts onto the scene with her entourage and demands the crown from Fenena, but Nabucco, believed to have died in battle, arrives and requests the crown for himself. Then he begins to mock the God Belo, who allegedly pushed the prisoners to betray him, and later also the Yəhōwāh. He demands to be worshiped as the only God, threatening Zechariah and the Jews with death if they do not submit to his will. Immediately after the Yəhōwāh throws a thunderbolt on his head, the crown falls to the ground and the king begins to show signs of madness. The crown is promptly collected by Abigaille.
PART III – The prophecy
In the hanging gardens of the palace of Babylon, Abigaille is flattered by the people and receives the honors of the authorities of the kingdom. The High Priest explains to the queen that the time has come to do away with all the Jews, starting with Fenena who has abjured the cult of Belo. Nabucco arrives, in an evident state of confusion. Abigaille takes advantage of this to get him to sign, in an intimidating manner, the death sentence for the Jews. In a moment of lucidity, however, the king remembers that Fenena also chose to be Jewish; Abigaille rejoices wickedly, while Nabucco, regaining her memory, orders the woman to bow down before him because she is the daughter of slaves. It is exactly where Abigaille wanted to lead him: she takes the paper attesting to her servile origin and tears it up, enjoying her triumph to the fullest. She then has Nabucco arrested, who begs her to spare at least Fenena, recovering, through her paternal love, that greatness of her soul that she had lost in comparing herself to God. Abigaille is pleased to see her adoptive father. humiliated and defeated. Meanwhile, on the banks of the Euphrates, Jews chained and forced to work are thinking with nostalgia of their lost homeland. Zacharias once again comforts his people, exhorts them to have faith and prophesies liberation. Babylon will fall.
PART IV – The broken idol
Nabucco wakes up from a nightmare. Shouts are heard outside: the crowd weeps for Fenena who is led to the gallows. He can’t do anything, he’s a prisoner. He kneels, asks the God of the Jews for forgiveness for his arrogance and promises to convert. Divine grace restores reason to him. Finding clarity and strength to react, he asks for a sword, he holds it. He orders the remaining faithful warriors to follow him for the ransom of Assyria and the salvation of Fenena. In the hanging gardens, a funeral march sounds and the Jews sentenced to death arrive. Zaccaria comforts Fenena. When Nabucco bursts onto the scene, the statue of the god Belo falls and the prisoners are freed. Nabucco begs them to erect a new one in his nametemple on the ruins of what he destroyed in Jerusalem. Abigaille, seeing her plan collapse, has poisoned herself and now, dying, she asks Fenena and Jeovha for forgiveness. All that remains for Zacharias is to bless the king redeemed by the new faith.