Opera japonica/Japan Opera Information/Synopses  
Nabucco is based on a French play by Anicet-Bourgeois and Cornue that tells the biblical story of Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, and the captivity of the Jews, in the sixth century BC.
Part One: Jerusalem 'Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I shall deliver this city into the hand of the King of Babylon, and he will burn it with fire.' Jeremiah
Interior of the Temple of Jerusalem The Jews are being defeated and Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar) is poised to enter Jerusalem. The High Priest Zaccaria tells the people not to despair but to trust in God. The presence of a hostage, Fenena, younger daughter of Nabucco, may yet secure peace. Zaccaria entrusts Fenena to Ismaele, nephew of the King of Jerusalem, and a former envoy to Babylon. But Fenena and Ismaele love each other and left alone, Ismaele urges her to escape rather than risk her life. Nabucco's elder daughter Abigaille storms into the temple with soldiers in disguise. She too loves Ismaele. Discovering the lovers, she threatens Ismaele. If he doesn't give up Fenena, Abigail will accuse her of treason. The King himself enters ('Viva Nabucco'). Zaccaria defies him, threatening to kill Fenena with a dagger. Ismaele intervenes to save her. Nabucco responds by ordering the destruction of the temple, and the Jews curse Ismaele as a traitor.
Part Two: The Unbeliever 'Behold, the whirlwind of the Lord goeth forth, it shall fall upon the head of the wicked.' Jeremiah
Scene 1: The Palace in Babylon Nabucco is away at the wars, and has appointed Fenena as regent. Abigaille has discovered a document that proves she is not Nabucco's real daughter, but a slave. The High Priest of Baal, accompanied by the Magi, comes to tell Abigaille that Fenena has released the Jewish captives. Their response is to launch a coup to put Abigaille on the throne, while spreading a rumour that Nabucco has died in battle.
Scene 2: A hall in the Palace in Babylon Fenena is converted to the Jewish religion and Ismaele is reconciled to the Jews. However it is announced that the King is dead and Abigaille and the High Priest of Baal demand the crown from Fenena. Unexpectedly Nabucco himself enters, scorning both sides, both Baal and the Hebrew god that he has defeated. He declares himself God. When Zaccaria objects Nabucco orders the Jews to be put to death. Fenena says that she will share their fate. Repeating that he is now god ('Non son piu re, son dio') Nabucco is promptly hit by a thunderbolt and loses his senses. The crown falls and is picked up by Abigaille.
Part Three: The Prophecy 'The wild beasts of the desert shall dwell in Babylon, and the owls shall dwell therein.' Jeremiah
Scene 1: The Hanging Gardens of Babylon The High Priest presents Abigaille with the death decree for the Jews and Fenena. Nabucco enters looking like a mad man, claiming his throne. Abigaille persuades him to seal the decree, but he asks that Fenena be saved. He tells Abigaille that she is not his true daughter but a slave. Abigaille mocks him, destroying the document with the evidence of her true origins. Understanding that he is now a prisoner, he pleads for Fenena's life. Abigaille exults.
Scene 2: Banks of the River Euphrates The Jews long for their homeland ('Va pensiero, sull'ali dorate'). Zaccaria once again exhorts them to have faith. God will destroy Babylon.
Part Four: The Shattered Idol 'Baal is confounded, his idols are broken in pieces.' Jeremiah
Scene 1: The Palace in Babylon Nabucco awakens, his strength and his reason fully regained. He sees Fenena in chains being taken to her death. Asking forgiveness of God, he promises to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, and follow the true faith. Joined by loyal soldiers, he resolves to punish the traitors and rescue Fenena.
Scene 2: The Hanging Gardens of Babylon As the Jews and Fenena prepare for death on the sacrificial altar of Baal, Nabucco rushes in, sword in hand. At his word the Idol of Baal shatters into pieces. Nabucco tells the Jews they are free. A new Temple will be raised to their God. Abigaille enters. She has poisoned herself. She expresses her remorse, asks the forgiveness of Fenena and dies. Zaccaria acclaims Nabucco as the servant of God and the King of Kings.
Simon Holledge