Nabucco - 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.

Mark Campbell
Kentish Times
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 Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Jerusalem, proclaiming himself a deity and his ensuing madness, was a sumptuous performance in all respects.

In particular Sally Langford’s 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.

Angela Goodall
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 performance.

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.