Verdi – Overture to Nabucco

by Max Derrickson

Giuseppe (Fortunino Francesco) Verdi     (b Roncole, near Parma, Italy, October 10, 1813; d Milan, January 27, 1901)

Overture to Nabucco

Nabucco was premiered in 1842 and was an instant success as well as solidifying Verdi’s career as a composer.  It’s extremely fortunate that it did, for had it failed, Verdi’s career would have certainly ended.  The four years preceding it brought him several personal tragedies;
[. . .]
That one last opera, of course, was Nabucco.

The Overture is typical in that it pulls its themes from the opera itself.  It is magnificently clever, however, in how it concisely and excitingly creates the parameters of the opera’s story.  The opening brass chorale represents the steadfast faith of the Hebrews as the forces of King Nebuchadnezzar (Nabucco) of Babylon defeats and enslaves them.  The quick-paced, snare drum driven sections
[. . .]
Va pensiero
… (“Go, my thoughts, [on golden wings]).  This chorus’ theme, played in the Overture first by the oboe and flute, sings of the Hebrews’ longing to see home again as they slave on the banks of the Euphrates.  The chorus was so cherished by the Italians that the some 100,000 mourners attending Verdi’s funeral in 1901 spontaneously sang it in memory of their favorite, and thankfully well-known, opera composer.