Honest Opinions of Nabucco

by Jungreis

In class, it was mentioned that in the concert reviews, the composer and specific work were not to be criticized; the work was known and famous, so the focus was on the specific performance, not something that people have tended to like for 170 years.  For that particular assignment, that rule makes a lot of sense to me.  After all, what kind of critique of a Metallica concert is that they played loud and fast?  Those are the ground rules for thrash (though criticizing Kirk’s use of his wah pedal is fair game).  There are ground rules for opera, too.

Here, no one has amnesty.

I did not like Nabucco.  There were two layers of problems.

The first is the specific performance.  The Friday night performance (and probably all of them) tried to do the opera as it would have been done when it premiered in Italy in the 1840s.  Ignore for now that doing so would have involved using candles and torches rather than electric lights and that there would not have been Skittles for sale.  The first actors looked like the poacher in Jumanji.  I was soon corrected and told that they were not English elephant/Robin Williams hunters but rather Italian soldiers.  Either way, huh?  The story took place in ancient Jordan.  From the moment the show started, I was confused.  That never really left, and I was confused until — actually, I’m still confused.  There were no rifles 2500 years ago!

The second layer is the style itself.  I cannot be the only person in the class who is bothered by high-pitched howling.  More than just me finding it unpleasant, it becomes hard for me to take it seriously.  That presents a big problem with trying to enjoy opera.  There were a few points where I kind of liked the music —  and then they sang “ahhhhhHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”.  (I hope that the onomatopoeia is clear, but if it is not, that is supposed to be a high note by a soprano.)  The enjoyment died immediately.

This guitarist is happy to remark, however, that the instrumental part of the performance was really good and should have been the featured part rather than being down in a pit with the focus on the singers.