Nabucco was awesome! It was grand, it was opulent, it was so very Italian, I loved it! This opera was composed by Verdi and it is one of his earlier operas. The basic story line is how King Nebuchadnezzar (Nabucco) of the Babylonians concurs the Jews and how his crazy illegitimate daughter usurps the crown, oppresses the Jews even further and eventually kills everyone and then repents. True opera material. I saw the opera at the Kennedy Center and it was performed by the Washington National Opera. (More information about the production here.)

The piece that the chorus sings is the most famous bit of the opera. It’s called Va Pensiero , it is the Jews singing of their oppression and how God will free them. However, when this opera was written the Italians were under Austrian rule, and to them this song clearly expressed their feelings about their occupation. When sung in Italia people go crazy and it gets several encores. Here in the states, the chorus politely sing it twice as Americans generally don’t openly express their feelings in public places. (And by that I mean Americans don’t really show emotions, not that they are incapbable of making flammable comments. Americans can talk heatedly one topic or another for hours, but the emotions they are feeling very rarely break through. I.e. you can tell the person is upset or feels strongly about something, but it is almost impossible to tell if the emotion is rooted in anger, fear, sorrow, or joy, etc.?) Here is Va Pensiero sung in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, one of my favorite churches in Rome.


The first time I heard this Va Pensiero was in Italy during an outdoor concert in Pz. di Populo with Andre Bocelli. I had no idea that it was from an opera. When Bocelli and the chorus started singing, the whole audience joined on the top of their lungs and flags started flying. It was pretty amazing. I took a picture of that moment, and it is one of my favorites.

 

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