- April 2007
Epic Biblical Tale
Fills Stage With Colour
Verdi's opera Nabucco was brought to stunning
life by Kentish Opera at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley.
After its premiere at La Scala,
Milan in 1842, the young composer was hailed as a national celebrity.
Since then, although arguably eclipsed by La Traviata or Aida,
it has become one of Verdi's most popular and best-loved works.
Nabucco retells the epic Biblical story
of the plight of the Jews as they are assaulted and subsequently
exiled from their homeland by the King of the Babylonians, Nabucco.
It is a complicated plot, with many twists and turns.
Directed by Sally Langford, the huge chorus
filled the wide Churchill stage with colour, movement and spectacle.
Enid Strutt's sets (with the exception of the somewhat denuded
Hanging Gardens) were impressive constructions that utilised
every inch of space.
On the opening night, Michael Fitchew
took a few moments to settle into the title role, but by Act
II he was a totally dynamic presence on stage, his beautiful
baritone voice effortlessly displaying the rise, fall and rise
of this charismatic leader.
Diana Vivian, a vibrant soprano, portrayed
Abigaille as a character study in deceit. Amy Kerenza Sedgwick
made for a beguiling Fenena, while David Newman's fine tenor
(as Ismaele) provided perfect accompaniment.
Under the aegis of Kentish opera
stalwart Mark Fitz-Gerald, the professional orchestra brought
out every nuance of Verdi's memorable score, with Janice Bevan's
harp playing a particular delight.
26th April 2007
It is some time since I have seen a production
by this group but their phenomenal standards have not diminished.
This Verdi opera of Nebuchadnezzars invasion of Jerusalem,
proclaiming himself a deity and his ensuing madness, was a sumptuous
performance in all respects.
In particular Sally Langfords
detailed work with the chorus enables them to portray real communities
and thus as Hebrew Slaves they breathed new life into the oft
heard Va pensiero which had a quiet dignity and passionate
longing. They filled the other choruses with thrilling sound.
The set, lighting (the effects
of thunderbolts were terrific) and design were all fittingly
grand , as were the costumes and that of Nabucco himself emphasised
his power as a conqueror. We saw Charles Johnston in this role,
a very strong portrayal, commanding but also pitiful in his madness
& degradation. I would have been totally enraptured by even
more bel canto in the cantabile arias, but perhaps this is unfair
comparison with the likes of Renato Bruson et al.
As Abigaille the daughter who usurps his
throne, Cara McHardy was equally powerful and sang this killer
role superbly, excusably sacrificing clarity of words to float
a beautiful line in her pianissimo singing at times. The other
major solo roles Fenena (Amy Kerenza Sedgwick) who sang the prayer
most movingly, Ismaele (David Newman) and Zaccariah (Paul Hodges)
were all up to the same excellent standard.
The orchestra under Mark Fitz-Gerald
played brilliantly, well-sprung rhythms, which are the key to
Verdi scores, gave flexible support to all the singers.
In my minor criticisms, I am comparing
Kentish Opera with fully professional international companies;
this production could hardly be bettered.
Words and Music
From M & J Cass, in a
letter to John Williams:
We felt we must write to you to
tell you how much we enjoyed Nabucco. We both felt that it was
the best Kentish Opera that we have seen and we have supported
you for quite a while.
The singing was superb and the
Chorus were quite excellent, we were spellbound by the whole
We just wanted to express our appreciation
for such a wonderful evening and to tell you all how much all
your hard work was appreciated.