Nabucco - Royal Opera House, 15 April 2013
Poor Placido Domingo. What a way to make a role debut. On top of one of the ugliest and least comprehensible productions of all time, he had to contend with clouds of swirling sand and what looked like a bad case of backache. Being, legendarily, the type that puts up and shuts up, there were no pre-show excuses, no indulgences sought. Leave that sort of thing to Generation Pantywaist; Placido is a soldier.
But even Placido couldn't hide his physical difficulties. My cheap stage side seat had two big advantages - most of the hideous set was blocked out of view, but I could see every facial expression the singers made. Placido was clearly, even at the curtain call, in more pain than either the part or the sandpit merited.
All the more to his credit that he inhabited the title role so authoritatively. For a few minutes after his entrance, his look was bewildered, and his singing pallid. But from the moment Nabucco goes mad, his performance was gripping. Never mind that the voice lacks the resonant depths of a true baritone; his anguished pleas cut straight to the heart.
Domingo could have carried the show on his own, but he didn't have to. Liudmyla Monastyrska was a commanding and surprisingly subtle Abigaille. Her dramatic skills have improved hugely since her raw-powered Aida a couple of years ago. Big low notes, a thrilling top, and unusual agility for a voice this size - she has everything. Nicola Luisotti conducted with flair and theatrical instinct. The rest of the cast were excellent, the only weakness being a rather weedy display from the chorus. Perhaps their lungs were filled with sand.
And here's the curtain call, courtesy of Kyoko: