José Cura to direct Nabucco

The National Theatre ends its season in Prague with the Verdi classic

The National Theatre will end the season with a new production of Verdi's Nabucco, directed by José Cura. The new National Theatre production will premiere June 28 at the Karlín Music Theatre, which is hosting State Opera performances during the latter's renovations.

The production will have a second premiere July 29 and two more stagings in July, before returning in September.

Argentinean tenor José Cura, who will not be singing this time, will be showing off some of his other talents. He has also created the sets and lighting.

For years he has pursued other artistic disciplines, including conducting, composing, stage direction, photography and nurturing young talent.

The State Opera Orchestra and Chorus will be conducted by the State Opera's music director, Andreas Sebastian Weiser,

The lead roles will be performed by Martin Bárta and Miguelangelo Cavalcanti (Nabucco), Anda-Louise Bogza and Kristina Kolar (Abigaille), Veronika Hajnová, Ester Pavlů and Jana Sýkorová (Fenena), Jaroslav Březina, Martin Šrejma and Josef Moravec (Ismaele), Oleg Korotkov, Jiří Sulženko and Roman Vocel (Zaccaria).

Nabucco, based on the Old Testament story of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, became an instant hit with the public when it made its debut in 1842 at Milan's La Scala. Some early critics, though, were a bit more reserved.

It is only the third opera Verdi wrote. “It is a work of a young composer, who by experimenting with music outlined the future,” director Cura said.

“Nabucco marked the beginning of Verdi's new operatic style. Even though one can identify the influence of Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini, the purely virtuoso bel canto passages gave way to arias and ensembles serving to enhance the dramatic tension and drift. Nabucco is above all important because we can anticipate what Verdi would be like in the future. It is a kind of road map of opera. Without Nabucco, Verdi would not have written Otello,” he added.

Verdi for the first time showed a father-daughter relationship with the lead role for a baritone, which would be typical of his subsequent works.

Martin Bárta, who portrays the title role, said the role is the one he has most frequently performed over the past few years. “It affords a splendid opportunity for the singer to showcase his ability to express a variety of emotions, ranging from drama to innermost feelings. The role is a test of the artist's prowess and skills. The character of Nabucco undergoes a compelling psychological development, from a haughty ruler, through a confused prisoner, to a humble man at the very end, a man who strives to appease and unite everyone,” he added.

Italian designer Silvia Cullazuol created the costumes for the new production. Cullazuol has collaborated with Cura as a stage direction assistant and costume designer since 2006.

“When designing the sets and costumes, we drew inspiration from Wassily Kandinsky's paintings. According to his theory of colors, the art and soul influence one another. Kandinsky claimed that the soul is a piano with many strings, with its keys being colors, the hammers hitting the strings being the audience's eyes and the artist is the hands playing the keys,” Cullazuol said.

“Accordingly, the artist plays melodies by means of colors, touching the strings in the soul of every person, everyone who looks at and listens to the work of art. And we draw upon this concept, which means that the stage is a blank sheet, moving in the geometrical space, as we use the turntable. Theoretically, there is actually no need for changes of scene, curtain rises; we could have a continuous succession, within which the characters would tell their stories through their costumes and, above all, their colors,” she added.

The State Opera company had its first opportunity to co-operate with José Cura in the autumn of 2001 during a tour of Japan with a production of Verdi's Aida, in which he performed as Radames. Subsequently, in January 2015, Cura appeared in Prague in the title role of the State Opera production of Verdi's Otello.

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