Nabucco 2-6 February 2024 at Cinema Nouveau Rosebank, part of The Met: Live in HD 2023-2024 season

The Met: Live in HD at Cinema Nouveau, Rosebank Mall

I am always disappointed when I see empty seats at Cinema Nouveau screenings of The Met: Live in HD.  In 2006 the Met launched Live in HD, a series of opera perfomances filmed live and then screened, at varying dates, around the world. We are fortunate enough to be one of the over 70 countries who has access to these screenings. Each opera only has one screening on 4 days: Friday at 5 pm, Saturday at 5 pm, Sunday at 2.30 pm and the following Tuesday at 5pm. 

Who could fail but be in awe

Even if you did happen to be in New York for an opera run, the cheapest seat would cost $71 (R1339) up in the boondocks where you’d need strong binoculars just to recognize a face;  increasing in cost to $761 (a whopping R32,376) for the best seats in the house. Of course going to any live event is special for a whole number of reasons apart from what happens on stage. And a performance at the theatre in New York’s Lincoln Centre is perhaps more special than most: the grandeur of the auditorium with its 6 levels of seating, the air of expectation, the tuning of the orchestral instruments, and the ongoing hum and chittering of thousands of hushed conversations (the theatre accommodates approximately 3,700 people), all create an electric atmosphere of eager anticipation.  

BUT, for R230 you can attend a live screening of the opera where there are close-ups of the singers clearly showing the subtlety of their emotions and their acting ability, as well as the details of the costuming and the breathtaking stage sets. And in addition to this, there are interviews with the performers and members of the production during the 2 intermissions which give wonderful insights and context.  We are so privileged to have these productions screened in South Africa. Please make it worthwhile for Ster Kinekor to keep paying for the screening rights.

Nabucco next on screen in the 2023 – 2024 season of The Met: Live in HD 

The 2023-2024 Live in HD season includes three Met premieres: Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking; Anthony Davis’s X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X; and Daniel Catán’s, Florencia en el Amazonas all of which have already been screened in South Africa. They are also more contemporary operas signalling the MetOpera’s aim to produce accessible operas attracting younger and more diverse audiences.  Showing next is the gloriously lyrical opera Nabucco at Cinema Nouveau this weekend: Friday 2nd, Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th February and Tuesday 6th Feb. This is one of the easiest of classical operas to access as the music is so melodic and is delivered in a sweeping legato style with at least two-thirds of the score involving singing from the near 60-odd choristers. That most famous of choral pieces “Va, pensiero” or “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” provides a stirring and profound high point in Act III. 

The sets are wondrous

Act 1 The Temple of Solomon where the Israelites pray that the Babylonian king Nabucco [Nebuchadnezzar] will not attack them. To no avail. He burns the Temple to the ground and takes the Israelites to Babylon as prisoners.
Nabucco’s Palace which in Act III revolves to become the Hanging Gardens. Here Nabucco (baritone George Gagnidze) stands on the stairs below the statue of Baal with his daughter Fenena (mezzo-soprano Maria Barakova) below on his left,and to his right, the ambitious and vengeful Abigaille (soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska). The love of Fenena’s life, the Israelite Ismaele (tenor SeokJong Baek), stands at the left of the image.
Exquisitely understated yet monumental and imbued with gravitas, the Hanging Gardens is the setting for the famous Chorus of the Hebrew slaves.

Nabucco as political allegory 

For much of the second and third quarters of the 19th Century there were nationalist attempts to unify the disparate entities in Italy which included states, duchies, kingdoms, and republics many of which were ruled by foreign powers – all in a time before Italy became Italy as we know it today. This takes me back to my matric history syllabus with the “Unification of Italy” and names like Garibaldi and Mazzini … but Verdi never came into it (or, if he did, I don’t remember). Much has been made of how the Nabucco chorus would become the unofficial anthem of the Italian independence movement (the Risorgimento or Resurgence). However, it seems that this is an example of history’s myth making.  While Verdi was certainly sympathetic to nationalist ideals (in 1842, the same year he wrote Nabucco, he met Giuseppe Mazzini, a leader of the Italian nationalist movement, in London), it seems that the Nabucco chorus only became the unofficial anthem of the Risorgimento years after unification in 1871. So it was more an acknowledgment of Italian independence rather than a rallying cry or a harbinger.  It seems that Verdi’s real support for the revolution probably helped newly unified Italians later “read back” (as biographer John Rosselli puts it) into the composer’s past intentions.  

However, when Verdi died in 1901 at 87, thousands of mourners at his funeral in Milan and a choir of 800 singers sang … yes …  you’ve got it .. Va, Pensiero. It must have been very moving. 

The remainder of the 2023-2024 Live HD season

After Nabucco the final five Live HD screenings of this season are Bizet’s Carmen (1,2,3 & 5 March),  Verdi’s Le Forza de Destino (5,6,7 & 9 April), Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette (17,18,19 & 21 May), Puccini’s Le Rondine (7,8.9 & 11 June), and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (5,6,7 & 9 July). 

Carmen is directed by the acclaimed English director Carrie Cracknell who sets the story in the modern day where the issues could not be more relevant to today’s audiences: breaking societal norms, harsh labour conditions, gender violence (including human traffickers). Sounds wild!  Director Mariusz Treliński has also set Forza in a contemporary world, making “extensive use of the Met’s turntable to represent the unstoppable advance of destiny’.  It sounds as intriguing as Carmen. 

These screenings provide such an amazing opportuntiy to see really world class productions with top performers at really affordable prices.  PLEASE make the most of it. 





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