by Giuseppe Verdi
La Scala, Milan Italy
First Performance: March 9, 1842; Teatro alla Scala, Milan
Solomon's temple is a mournful scene.
Forces of the Israelites have been defeated by Babylon's
King Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar), who is prepared to enter Jerusalem.
High priest Zaccaria enters the temple with his sister Anna and
the Babylonian hostage he has taken, Fenena, daughter of Nabucco.
He hopes a threat to her life will save the temple. Zaccaria tries to
the mourning Hebrews and Levites by showing them his important hostage
and reassuring them that Ismaele, nephew of the king of Jerusalem,
will be her guard. But Ismaele is in love with Fenena. She had
when he was a prisoner in Babylon and he has never forgotten her.
The two have been planning to run away together.
Nabucco's older daughter, Abigaille, bursts in wearing military garb
and leading a band of Babylonian soldiers disguised as Hebrews.
She, too, was in love with Ismaele, but now she greets him scornfully.
She tells him privately that he can claim a new kingdom if he will
give himself to her. Ismaele refuses and offers to forfeit
his life for his people, while Fenena prays to
the God of Israel to protect Ismaele.
A crowd of frightened Hebrews enters the temple.
Moments later Nabucco appears on the threshold.
Zaccaria grabs Fenena by the arm and raises his sword,
threatening to kill her if the temple is violated.
Ismaele cannot bear the danger to Fenena. He rushes to Zaccaria,
forces the dagger from his hand, and pulls Fenena loose from his grasp.
Fenena runs to her father. Zaccaria condemns Ismaele as a traitor.
Other Jews denounce him. Nabucco orders the temple looted and burned.
In the Babylonian palace Abigaille discovers papers revealing her heritage.
She is the daughter of a slave. Shamed and angered, she plans her
on Nabucco and apparent heir Fenena. The high priest of Baal informs
that Fenena has freed their Hebrew prisoners. He and Abigaille
conspire to spread rumors that Nabucco has died in battle
and that Abigaille will be his successor.
They condemn Fenena as a traitor.
Zaccaria has prayed that the Babylonians will reject their idols and accept
the Jewish faith. Fenena is prepared to convert. Two Levites
and are surprised to find the outcast, Ismaele. They hurl insults at
Zaccaria arrives with Fenena and his sister Anna. He pardons Ismaele
he has saved Fenena, a newly-converted Hebrew.
The aged palace advisor, Abdallo enters to announce that Nabucco has died
and Abigaille will take the throne. Before Fenena can escape Abigaille
demanding the crown. Fenena refuses to release it.
At that moment, Nabucco appears and re-establishes his authority.
Everyone fears the irate monarch, who claims that not only is he king,
he is God. A thunderbolt strikes him, knocking the crown from his head
and rendering him insane, Abigaille seizes the crown
and proclaims the glory of Baal.
In the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Abigaille is enthroned and
Baal is praised. The high priest of Baal urges her to kill
all the Hebrews, beginning with Fenena.
Before Abigaille can act, Nabucco enters, helped by Abdallo.
Abigaille dismisses everyone else and explains to him that she is serving
in his place since he is too ill to rule. She gives him the death
warrants to sign.
He does so, then remembers his daughter, Fenena. When he asks about
Abigaille retorts that she will die too.
Nabucco rummages in his garments, looking for Abigaille's birth papers.
Abigaille produces them from her own garments and tears to bits
the only proof of her lowly birth. He pleads for her mercy
and receives only scornful denial.
On the banks of the Euphrates the Hebrews lament the fall of their homeland.
Zaccaria predicts that they will overcome captivity and
with God's help they will overcome the Babylonians.
Nabucco awakens from troubled dreams and hears voices calling Fenena.
In a revelation he sees that Jehovah is the one true God. He kneels to pray
to the God of the Hebrews. His reason miraculously returns.
He calls for his sword and his followers
in order to save the condemned people.
Fenena and the Hebrews believe themselves about to die.
As they seek strength in prayer, Nabucco arrives and orders
the statue of Baal to be pulled down.
Before anyone can touch it the statue shatters and falls.
Having taken poison, she confesses her crimes and
prays to the God of the Jews, then dies.
Nabucco tells the Israelites to return to their homes.
He says that he, himself now serves Jehovah.
The Hebrews acknowledge a miracle
and sing praises to God.