FGO’s second cast “Nabucco” proves respectable unlike the matinee audience

By David Fleshler

Susan Neves is Abigaille in FGO's second cast of "Nabucco."

Susan Neves is Abigaille in FGO’s second cast of “Nabucco.”

The second cast of Florida Grand Opera’s production of Verdi’s Nabucco fell a couple of notches below the first but still gave a respectable performance Sunday of this story from the Babylonian captivity of the Hebrews.

Appearing at the Arsht Center in the title role was the Cuban-born baritone Nelson Martinez, whose performances have long been highlights of the smaller Miami Lyric Opera.

Martinez has a big, burly voice to match a big, burly stage presence. He lacked the refinement and ability to sing a long, smooth vocal line of the previous night’s Nabucco, Dario Solari. Early on, particularly, Martinez’s tonally vague sounds made it hard to follow the melodic line. But when Nabucco went mad—having claimed to be God and had this error corrected by a well-timed lightning bolt—Martinez gave a moving portrait of a man struggling to regain his wits and desperate to save his daughter, singing with the long legato phrases that had been absent earlier in the opera.

Susan Neves took on the role of Abigaille, the slave raised as Nabucco’s daughter, The role is famously demanding, with a vast range and wide leaps from note to note. The American soprano couldn’t quite muster the dark throaty low notes, and her high notes were often unfocused and seemed to take a lot of effort.

But she also improved as the opera progressed, and her finest moment came at the end, in the aria “Su me morente, esanime,” in which the dying Abigaille pleads for salvation. Neves brought a warm, lustrous tone to this aria, seeming far most comfortable with its lyricism than with the strident, aggressive tones required earlier in the opera.

In an unusual arrangement, Neves will sing a total of five performances compared to three for the first-cast soprano, the well-known Russian singer Maria Guleghina. This seems odd given Guleghina’s eminence in that role, which she has sung at the top houses and recorded. Neves sings the role Jan. 29, Feb. 1, Feb. 6 and Feb. 8. Guleghina will sing it twice more, Jan. 28 and 31.

An eager-to-applaud audience ruined a couple of key moments. At the beginning, as a crescendo in the orchestra leads to the magnificently dramatic opening notes of the chorus, clueless audience members obliterated the notes by beating their hands together in praise of the scenery. And at the close of the famous chorus “Va, pensiero,” the chorus ends with a luminous, long-held pianissimo, or at least they did Saturday, since you couldn’t heard it over the cheers and other racket from Sunday’s audience.

Florida Grand Opera’s production of Verdi’s Nabucco continues Jan. 26-Feb. 1 at the Arsht Center in Miami and Feb. 6 and 8 at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale. fgo.org; 800-741-1010

Posted in Performances

One Response to “FGO’s second cast “Nabucco” proves respectable unlike the matinee audience”

  1. Posted Feb 07, 2014 at 9:44 am by Jung

    You mean they put down their cell phones to applaud?????!

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Sun Jan 26, 2014
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