Last night was opera night; leaving the safety and sophistication of glamorous Queens I ventured over to the neo-Assyrian art palace at Lincoln Center where the Metropolitan Opera put on one of the greats: Verdi’s youthful masterpiece Nabucco. Loosely, very loosely, built on the story of the fall of the Temple and the Hebrew captivity in ancient Babylon, Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzer in the English Bible) is full of all the things that people who hate opera love to hate. The loose plotting, the cavalier treatment of history, the sentimentality and the over the top theatricality: it is all there.But what is also all there is the glorious music that poured from the brain of the then twenty-something composer and has electrified the world ever since. Nabucco is not the greatest of all operas, or even the greatest Verdi opera, but it contains some of the greatest music ever created.Listen to the chorus of the Hebrew slaves, “Va Pensiero.” And read the words in translation:
Hasten thoughts on golden wings.
Hasten and rest on the densely wooded hills,
where warm and fragrant and soft
are the gentle breezes of our native land!
The banks of the Jordan we greet
and the towers of Zion.
O, my homeland, so beautiful and lost!
O memories, so dear and yet so deadly!
Golden harp of our prophets,
why do you hang silently on the willow?
Rekindle the memories of our hearts,
and speak of the times gone by!
Or, like the fateful Solomon,
draw a lament of raw sound;
or permit the Lord to inspire us
to endure our suffering!
New York, God knows, has its problems, but while music like this can be heard in it, the city has not completely lost its way.For those of you planning trips to the city that never sleeps, here is a link to the schedule and the ticket site for the Metropolitan Opera. And for readers not planning any trips this far, or pinching pennies in these tough times, the live HD broadcasts across the country are excellent value and a glorious treat. Here is a link to the schedule; every opera on it this year is a spectacular show.