Last night, only a month after being fitted with a pacemaker and having facial sugery after a fall, Riccardo Muti went against the wishes of his Chicago doctors and conducted Nabucco at the Rome Opera. The performance is one of many celebrations during the next week to celebrate the unification of Italy 150 years ago.
Maria Stefanelli, from the Teatro dell’Opera’s press office said,
His doctors absolutely forbid him to conduct Nabucco in Rome following surgery to repair facial injuries sustained in the fall and to have a pacemaker implanted. They wanted him to have two more weeks of rest. It was very important to him. He wanted to do it at all costs.”
Verdi’s Nabucco was premièred in 1842 when Austrian rule dominated the north of Italy. Nabucco tells of the plight of the Jews as they are assaulted, conquered, and subsequently exiled from their homeland by the Babylonian King Nabucco (in English, Nebuchadnezzar). Therefore the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, Và, pensiero, sull’ali dorate (Fly, thought, on golden wings), had a particular resonance at the time, inspiring the Italians’ successful drive for unity in 1861. In fact, surveys show that most Italians want to adopt “Và pensiero” as the national anthem.
Before lifting his baton, Muti reminded the audience that “Nabucco” was seen at its 1842 début as a patriotic work aimed at Italy’s unity and identity. And when, unusually for him, he repeated the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, the theatre was on its feet, many singing along with the on-stage chorus.