- 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
- 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.'
- 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.'
- 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