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I firmly believe that story and music need to combine effectively in opera.
Of the many performances I have seen at Lyric Opera of Chicago, all have brought story and music together effectively. And “Nabucco”, currently running at Lyric, is no exception.
The work, that is considered by many to have put Giuseppe Verdi on the road to success, is a tale based richly on history.
It follows the plight of Israelites as they become exiles from their own homeland following the Temple of Solomon’s destruction by Babylon King Nabucco in 585 B.C.
It’s a story that is gripping. But what I enjoyed most about Wednesday’s (Feb. 3) performance was the music. The story was stil crucial, but it was taking a seat in the second row while the music was in the front row.
Part of it is due to a brilliant cast that includes Zeljko Lucic as Nabucco, Dmitry Belosselskiy as Zaccaria, Sergei Skorokhodov as Ismaele, Elizabeth DeShong as Fenena and Tatiana Serjan as Abigaille. Most of the operas I have seen, the music and performer have become one. It’s not just the performer singing a piece of music on a paper. It has become part of their character’s emotions.
But I think the cast of “Nabucco” has done this the best of any opera I have ever seen. The best example is when Abigaille (Serjan) sings of her anger for Nabucco and her love for Ismaele — Anch’io dischiuso un giorno.
I love operas that have chorus work. But what also pushes “Nabucco” upward is that it requires a heavy role by the Lyric Opera chorus under the direction of Chorus Master Michael Black. Their work raises the Verdi’s music to a point where you want to block everything out and just savor every note.
“Nabucco” has three more performances in its run at Lyric. Visit lyricopera.org for ticket information.

“31 DAYS OF OSCAR” — My pick for tonight’s (Feb. 5) lineup on Turner Classic Movies and it’s month-long Oscar celebration is “It Happened One Night” which starts at 10:45 p.m. CST. The 1934 film stars Clark Gable as a newspaper reporter who has the chance to get the biggest story of his life as he gets a pampered rich socialite (Claudette Colbert) back home after she escaped from what she considered an unhappy existence. As far as I can tell, it was the first memorable romantic comedy in the history of film. The last 15 minutes or so are wonderful. It cleaned up at the Oscars winning best picture. Director Frank Capra won as did Gable and Colbert for best actor and actress.