Nabucco

Heavy is the Crown

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Nabucco

Like every other loving father before him, the formidable Nabucco is rendered powerless in the presence of his own daughter.  Heaven’s favor comes at an exalted price for the King of Babylon and the namesake of Verdi’s masterwork. Nabucco is based on the Book of Daniel.

Act I

Jerusalem
The Assyrians led by Nebuchadnezzar (Nabucco), are attacking the holy city.  The terrified Hebrews pray for help before the Temple of Solomon.  Zaccaria, their high priest, tells them to have hope because they have captured Fenena, Nabucco's daughter.  Ismaele, the nephew of the king of Jerusalem, announces that Nabucco is upon them.  Zaccaria places Fenena under Ishmael's guard, and the others leave to face the charging invaders.

At one time Ismaele had been the Hebrew ambassador to the Assyrian capital, Babylon.  He fell in love with Fenena, and she with him.  At that time, he was thrown into prison and it was she who set him free.  Now he proposes to do the same.  Ismaele’s attempt to free Fenena is foiled when Abigaile, who is known as the older daughter of Nabucco, leads a band of soldiers into Jerusalem.  She too is in love with Ismaele, but he has spurned her for Fenena.  The Hebrews, who are losing the battle, seek refuge before their temple.  The conquering Nabucco arrives with his troops and is confronted by the enraged Zaccaria who threatens to kill Fenena.  Zaccaria is about to kill her when Ismaele releases her, bringing down the condemnation of the Hebrews on his head, and leaving Nabucco free to complete his victory by destroying the Temple of Solomon.

 

Act II

Cruelty
The scene shifts to Babylon where the Hebrews have been taken captive.  Nabucco has gone to further conquests, leaving Fenena as regent.  Abigaile resents this, believing that she should be regent.  She discovers a secret parchment that states her true background – she is not the daughter of the king, but the child of slaves who he has raised as his own.  She plans revenge on Fenena, Ismaele and Nabucco, using the High Priest of Baal as her accomplice.  The High Priest tells her that Fenena is converting to Judaism, and that he has spread the rumor that Nabucco has been killed in battle.  The time is right for her to seize the throne.

In another part of the palace grounds, Zaccaria prepares for Fenena's conversion ceremony.  Ismaele asks forgiveness of the Levites, who continue to revile him as a traitor.  Anna, sister of Zaccaria, interrupts to tell them that Ismaele had saved a Hebrew, and to prove this, Zaccaria brings forth Fenena.  Abdallo, the faithful servant to Nabucco, enters to warn Fenena of Abigaile's treachery.  Before she can act, the High Priest of Baal enters and declares Abigaile queen.  As the triumphant Abigaile moves to seize the royal scepter from Fenena, Nabucco enters. He takes the scepter and dares Abigaile to take it from him.  Declaring that Baal has turned his people into traitors, and that with the defeat of the Hebrews he has proven their god to be false, Nabucco declares that he is no longer merely king, but that he is god.  At this pronouncement, he is struck with madness. Abigaile seizes the scepter and declares that she will keep the glory of the people of Baal.

Act III

The Prophesy
In the throne room, the High Priest of Baal asks Abigaile to sentence the Hebrews to death, including Fenena.  Nabucco enters.  In his madness, he is searching for his throne room.  Abigaile tricks Nabucco into affixing his seal to the death warrant for the Hebrews.  Too late, he realizes that he has also signed the death of his beloved Fenena, and he begs Abigaile for her life.  When she refuses, he calls her 'slave' and tries to remember where the proof of her low birth is.  Abigaile takes the document from her bosom and tears it up.  Now the proof of her birth is destroyed.  The world believes she is his daughter, and she has won.

On the banks of the Euphrates, the Hebrews sing of their lost homeland. Zaccaria inspires them with a vision of the future destruction of Babylon.

Act IV

The Broken Idol
Abigaile has sent Nabucco to prison.  There he hears the sound of the funeral procession for the Hebrews.  He believes it is military music and that he is once again at the head of his troops.  The crowd shouts for Fenena and Nabucco, and in his madness he is pleased that his people adore her.  When he sees that she is bound in chains and that the crowd is calling for her death, he implores the God of the Hebrews for forgiveness.  His mind clears and his strength is restored.  With the help of Abdallo, he escapes prison, and they leave to rescue Fenena.

Abigaile and the Assyrians watch the funeral procession of the Hebrews.  Fenena sings of the joys of martyrdom.  Nabucco arrives with a few loyal troops.  He orders them to tear down the statue of Baal.  Abigaile, realizing she has lost, takes poison.  She dies repentant, and asking for forgiveness.  Nabucco frees the Hebrews and joins them in giving thanks to the one true God.