Nabucco in Wales



Giuseppe Verdi

New Production

When Nabucco is struck by lightning he proclaims himself to be a god. Others think he is a mad man, a tyrant, yesterday’s news, a father and possibly even a liberator. In the final reckoning how will Nabucco be judged? Best known for ‘Va, pensiero – The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves’, Nabucco is a rich treasure by the young Verdi that all fans of his work will want to discover. Nabucco is the operatic equivalent of a 1950s biblical Hollywood epic with its rousing, soaring score. We are delighted to present Nabucco once again as the company who re-introduced it to British audiences a century after it was last performed on these shores. Rudolf Frey’s production set in the modern day puts the WNO Chorus at the heart of the drama. Nabucco will send you home humming the tunes and tapping your feet for days to come. Supported by the Colwinston Charitable Trust, WNO Partners and the Nabucco Circle.


Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff 31 May – 14 June

Birmingham Hippodrome 19 Jun – 21 June

Olavinlinna Castle, Savonlinna, Finland 29 Jul – 2 Aug –


Conductor: Xian Zhang (ex 8 June) tbc (8 June)

Director: Rudolf Frey

Set Designer: Ben Baur

Costume Designers: Silke Willrett and Marc Weeger

Lighting Designer: Tim Mitchell

Choreographer: Beate Vollack

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Nabucco: David Kempster

Abigaille: Mary Elizabeth Williams

Zaccaria: Kevin Short

Fenena: Justina Gringyte

Ismaele: Robyn Lyn Evans

High Priest: James Platt

All performances start at 7.15pm except 8 June at 4pm Running time approximately 2 hours 50 minutes with one interval Sung in Italian with surtitles in English (and Welsh in Cardiff)

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The Hebrews pray to God for protection from the Babylonians, who are at the gates of the temple, led by their king, Nabucco. Zaccaria, the High Priest of the Hebrews, holds a vital hostage: Nabucco’s daughter, Fenena. Leaving her in the care of the Hebrew prince, Ismaele, Zaccaria leads his people into battle.

Fenena and Ismaele fell in love when she helped to secure his release from prison in Babylon. Now he is determined to set her free. As they plan their escape, Nabucco’s other daughter, Abigaille, breaks in with a band of Babylonian soldiers disguised as Hebrews. Abigaille also loves Ismaele and offers to save the Hebrew people if he will love her in return. He refuses.

The defeated Hebrews are pursued by the Babylonians. As Nabucco is about to enter the Temple, Zaccaria threatens to kill Fenena if he commits this sacrilegious intrusion. Ismaele intervenes and disarms Zaccaria. With his daughter safe, Nabucco orders the destruction of the Temple. The Hebrews are driven into exile.

Abigaille has found a document that proves that she is not Nabucco’s daughter, but the child of a slave. She swears vengeance against the king and against Fenena, whom Nabucco has appointed as regent while he is still embroiled in the war against the Hebrews. The High Priest of Baal brings news to Abigaille that Fenena has set the Hebrews free. He and his followers have spread a rumour that Nabucco has died in battle and he urges Abigaille to seize the throne.

Zaccaria intends to convert Fenena to the Jewish faith. The Hebrews attack Ismaele for his betrayal of them but are astounded to discover that Fenena has been converted.

As the High Priest of Baal and Abigaille attempt to usurp Fenena’s position as regent, Nabucco returns unexpectedly. He spurns the gods of both Baal and the Hebrews and declares that he himself is the only true god. At these words he is struck down and driven mad. Abigaille seizes power.

The demented Nabucco interrupts the celebrations of Abigaille’s accession to the throne. She taunts her father and tricks him into signing a warrant for the execution of Fenena and the Hebrews. When he realizes what he has done, Nabucco begs Abigaille to show mercy, but she refuses. He attempts to find the document that proves her lowly birth but she produces it herself and tears it up in front of him.

Nabucco sees Fenena being led to her execution and prays to the god of the Hebrews for help and forgiveness. He is restored to sanity and goes to rescue his daughter.

Fenena and the condemned Hebrews resign themselves to death but Nabucco arrives just in time to save them. He gives orders to destroy the image of Baal and, proclaiming his conversion to their faith, promises the Hebrews that he will rebuild the Temple.

Abigaille has taken poison, but before she dies she begs the god of the Hebrews for forgiveness. Zaccaria returns the crown to Nabucco.

Free pre-performance talks
Prior to every performance of Moses und Aron and Nabucco.

The Whole Story
Thursday 22 May – Tuesday 3 June
The Whole Story is the perfect introduction to the Faith season. Before the performances begin, our team of experts will guide you through the music, stories and background to each opera.

David Pountney in Conversation
Friday 23 May
David Pountney and a key figure from the arts explore the Faith theme.

Images by A.T. Schaefer

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