Jerusalem 587 BC. The daughters of King Nabucco, Abigaille and Fenena, are rivals in love and power. Fenena's love is returned by her lover Ismaele. Abigaille attempts to seize the throne but fails.
Babylonian troops led by King Nabucco attack Jerusalem and destroy the temple. The Israelites are imprisoned and are brought to Babylon.
The King' daughter Fenena and her lover Ismaele recall how they fell in love. The King's other daughter Abigaille, who is also in love with Ismaele, is mortified by seeing the lovers together.
Abigaille is chocked to find out that she is not the King's daughter but in fact the daughter of a slave. She swears vengeance on her father King Nabucco and her sister Fenena.
Fenena, who has converted to the Hebrew faith, becomes the ruler while the King is away at war. Upon hearing that Fenena is releasing Hebrew prisoners, Abigaille decides to seize the throne. Nabucco returns and regains the throne but is struck by lightning and loses his mind. Abigaille becomes the ruler again.
By taunting Nabucco, Abigaille forces him to sign a death warrant, not realising that this also includes his daughter Fenena. When he protests, the guards imprison him.
King Nabucco realises his helpless situation and prays to Jehovah, the Hebrew God. His prayers are heard and he is liberated. He can finally set the Hebrews free to return to their homeland. Abigaille asks Fenena to grant her forgiveness before she falls to the ground dying.
Opera in 4 acts
Sung in Italian
About 2 hours 50 min + intervals
Interior of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem 587 BC
The Babylonian army is approaching Jerusalem and the Israelites have gathered in the temple to pray. Zaccaria, the High Priest, tells the people to trust in God. All is not yet lost, since the Israelites have a hostage, Fenena, who is the daughter of Nabucco, the King of Babylon.
Ismaele, nephew of the King of Jerusalem and a former envoy to Babylon, is Fenena’s guardian. They recall how they fell in love when Ismaele was imprisoned in Babylon and Fenena helped him to escape to Jerusalem.
A group of Babylonian soldiers enter, led by Nabucco’s elder daughter, Abigaille, who is also in love with Ismaele. Seeing Ismaele and Fenena together, she gives him an ultimatum: either he leaves her or Abigaille will see to it that Fenena is accused of treason. If, on the other hand, Ismaele accepts Abigaille’s demands, she will be able to help him save the Jewish people. But Ismaele rejects her offer and Abigaille vows to take revenge.
Nabucco enters with his soldiers and Zaccaria threatens to kill Fenena if Nabucco attacks the temple. But Ismaele saves his beloved by snatching the dagger from his hand. Nabucco then orders the destruction of the temple and Zaccaria and the Israelites condemn Ismaele.
The royal apartments in Nabucco’s palace in Babylon
Abigaille is chocked at finding a document that proves that she is a slave and not the daughter of the King. She swears vengeance on the King and Fenena, and also reflects on her unrequited love for Ismaele. Fenena has been appointed deputy regent while Nabucco is pursuing his warfare. Now the High Priest of Baal enters and informs Abigaille that Fenena is letting the Hebrew prisoners free. Abigaille decides to seize the throne herself.
A hall in the palace
Zaccaria reads through the Tables of the Law and summons the Levites. The Levites accuse Ismaele of treachery but are interrupted when Zaccaria returns with Fenena and his sister Anna. They defend Ismaele explaining that he actually saved the life of a Hebrew - the newly converted Fenena.
Now Abigaille enters with a group of followers. She demands that Fenena should surrender the crown to her.
News reaches Babylon that Nabucco has been killed in battle, but the rumour is false. To everyone's surprise Nabucco enters and puts the crown on his head. He orders everyone present to bow down and worship him, saying: There is only one God … your King! At that moment he is struck by lightning. Zaccaria says: Heaven has punished the braggart! Nabucco starts showing signs of madness and finally faints. Abigaille seizes the moment and puts the crown on her head.
The hanging gardens of Babylon
Abigaille is sitting at the throne, happily enjoying being the ruler of Babylon. The High Priest of Baal enters and declares that the Hebrew prisoners must all die, including Fenena, who has betrayed Baal. He hands over a death warrant to sign. Nabucco comes in, obviously mentally deranged. Abigaille taunts him and calls him a coward but he signs the death warrant.
Abigaille is happy, but it dawns on the King that the death sentence also includes his daughter. He hears the sounds of trumpets and asks what it means. Abigaille triumphantly exclaims: It is the signal for the death of the Hebrews you condemned. Nabucco calls for the guards to help him, but instead they arrest him by order of Abigaille. The King begs for mercy but Abigaille is unyielding.
On the banks of the Euphrates
The Hebrew prisoners are in chains and sing about longing for their homeland. Zaccaria tells them not to weep and prophesises that their chains will be shattered and that Babylon will be obliterated.
An apartment in the palace
Nabucco awakens from a nightmare and hears sounds from outside. He rushes to the balcony and sees Fenena in chains on her way to be executed. He tries to get out but the doors are locked. He is a prisoner. He prays to the Hebrew God for forgiveness. Suddenly his old officer friend Abdallo and a group of soldiers appear and promise to help him regain the throne.
The Hanging Gardens
The Hebrews are being led to their execution. Nabucco and his soldiers hastily arrive and the King orders them to destroy the idol of Baal, but it falls apart by itself. Nabucco liberates the Hebrews and begs them to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple. Abigaille enters, supported by two guards. She asks Fenena to grant her forgiveness, before falling to the ground dying. Zaccaria says to Nabucco: In serving Jehovah, you shall be king of kings!
Nabucco – Baritone (dramatic)
King of Babylon
Abigaille – Soprano (dramatic coloratura)
Supposedly Nabucco's elder daughter
Fenena – Mezzo-soprano (dramatic)
Ismaele – Tenor (lyric)
Nephew of the King of Jerusalem
Zaccaria – Bass (lyric)
High Priest of the Jews
Anna - Soprano
Abdallo - Tenor
High priest of Bel – Bass
Place of birth: Le Roncole, Italy
Place of death: Milan, Italy
Verdi is one of our most beloved opera composers with hits like Rigoletto, Aida and Falstaff. He was a very productive composer, writing nearly 30 operas spanning from 1839 to 1893.
In his twenties tragic events unfolded when Verdi lost his two children in infancy and shortly thereafter his first wife. He remarried years later to the renowned soprano Giuseppina Strepponi who became his life companion.
Verdi is known for modernising Italian opera by writing long passages of through-composed music and unifying acts for a more continuous dramatic development. This is more noticeable in his later works. He came to dominate the opera scene after an era of bel canto composers such as Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini.
“To copy the truth can be a good thing, but to invent the truth is better, much better. ”
Verdi was a food lover, adored Shakespeare and the only piece of chamber music he wrote was a string quartet.
Verdi and Wagner were born in the same year. They were known to be rivals even though they never met.
Most prominent operas
I masnadieri 1847
Luisa Miller 1849
Il trovatore 1853
La traviata 1853
I vespri Siciliani 1855
Simon Boccanegra 1857
Un ballo in maschera 1859
La forza del destino 1862
Don Carlo 1867
Temistocle Solera was an Italian opera composer and librettist. He wrote the libretto for five of Verdi's operas, Nabucco being his most successful.
2, 2, 2, 2 - 4, 2, 3, 1
timp, perc, harp, strings
Nabucco was first premiered at La Scala in Milan in 1842, but with its original title Nabucodonosor.
Today Nabucco is one of the top 20 most performed operas worldwide.
Aria – Anch'io dischiuso un giorno (Abigaille)
Duet – Chi s'avanza?... Salgo già del trono aurato (Abigaille, High Priest)
Va, pensiero (Chorus)
Aria – Dio di Giuda! (Nabucco)