TWENTY-ONE years after it launched her opera career, award-winning producer Ellen Kent has brought Nabucco back to the stage with the well-known and emotionally-haunting Va Pensiero sung in its original setting.
Nabucco, which comes to The Grove Theatre, Dunstable, on Monday, will feature about 30 local dancers, children and adults, joining the 80-strong cast as slaves and soldiers on stage.
The ensemble number, a favourite of choral societies and choirs, is better known as The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, and is set on the banks of the River Euphrates as the captured are taken to be slaughtered.
Ellen said: “At my first performance of Nabucco, people sat outside in the pouring rain with the thunder and lightning, then gave it a standing ovation. It was such an adventure.”
Since then Ellen has produced and directed about 100 operas and entertained more than four million people with her tours of the UK and Ireland.
The celebrated Chisinau National Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra, with international guest soloists will appear at the Bedfordshire venue.
Nabucco was Ellen’s first foray into opera in 1993 in an open-air production to an audience of 7,000 at Rochester Castle with a cast flown over from Romania in Ceausescu’s former plane borrowed from the country’s president.
She said: “At one point I did wonder, as I stood on the runway what on earth I was doing. But by the end I knew, that was it – opera was for me.
“It was a massive occasion. Nabucco is a political opera about people fighting for their freedom. It was written as a gesture, a cry for freedom, to show that people should be free and able to do their own thing in life.”
The opera follows the plight of the Hebrews as they are conquered and sentenced to death by the Babylonian King Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar).
A complicated romantic plot provides the detail with a love triangle combined with power play, religion and death.
Amazing stage and lighting effects recreate the burning of Solomon’s temple as jealousy and destruction drive the king to madness.
Verdi composed Nabucco just after his wife and children had died, but saw it as the opera with which his artistic career really began.
A choir of 800 sang Va Pensiero at his burial.
The performance is part of a 75-date national tour and features celebrated international soloists sopranos Elena Dee and Olga Perrier, and tenors Sorin Lupu and Ruslan Zinevych.