Arena of Verona
Table of contents Nabucco

ACT ONE
Jerusalem.

The Hebrews and the Levites are gathered together in Salomon’s temple to lament the fate of the Israelites, who have just been defeated by the Babylonian king Nabucco, who is about to enter the city at the head of his victorious army. The high priest Zaccaria is encouraging the faithful not to abandon hope, for they hold a valuable hostage: Fenena, Nabucco’s daughter. Fenena is entrusted to the custody of Ismaele, nephew to king Sedecia of Jerusalem. Ismaele, however is in love with Fenena, who had freed him, at a greater personal risk, when he was held prisoner in Babylon. He now entends to return the favour. They are about to leave by a side gate when Abigaille, whom everyone believes to be Nabucco’s first born daughter (but is in fact merely a slave), enters the temple at the head of a band of Babylonian soldiers disguised as Hebrews. Abigaille declares her love to Ismaele and offers freedom to all the Hebrews in return for his love. Ismaele refuses. In the meantime a crowd of Hebrews, who are being hounded down by Nabucco’s soldiers, in vain seek refuge in the temple: the king himself appears on the threshold. When Zaccaria raises his dagger on Fenena, Ismaele saves her from death. Nabucco orders the city to be sacked and the conquered to be put to the sword.

ACT TWO
The apartments of the Royal Palace in Babylon.

From a document Nabucco had kept secret, Abigaille learns of her true origins: she is disturbed, but perseveres in her plans to wreak vengeance on Fenena, to whom Nabucco has entrusted the throne during his absence fighting the Hebrews. She contemplates having her rival murdered, taking over the throne and spreading the new that Nabucco is dead. She is supported by the high priest of Bel; Zaccaria prays to the Lord over the tables of the Law. A chorus of Levites is heard cursing Ismaele for having saved Fenena; however she is now converted to the Hebrew religion. Abigaille is about to carry out her plan when Nabucco unexpectedly returns. He grasps the crown and declares himself sole king and god of a people who must adore him for eternity. At these blasphemous words a thunderbolt burst over his head and in terror he feels the crown being snatched from his head by a supernatural force. A deep silence follows the confusion caused by this mysterious event. Abigaille takes advantage of it to pick up the fallen crown and swears that the "splendor of the poeple of Bel shall never be estinguished".

ACT THREE
The Hanging gardens in the Royal Palace in Babylon.

Abigaille, who has proclaimed herself queen, is seated on the throne to receive the homage of the nobles of the kingdom in the presence of the High Priest. When the deranged Nabucco enters, Abigaille uses a trick to remove his royal seal, for she intends to use it to ratify the sentence of death on all the Hebrew prisoners, included the converted Fenena. Nabucco, realizing too late the trick, protests and orders Abigaille to prostrate herself before him, slave that she is.She answers by tearing up the document that reveal her origins and by consigning him to the guards. On the banks of the Euphrates, the Hebrews, condamned to hard working, lament their "beautiful and lost motherland" and call on the Lord’s help. Zaccaria encourages them with the solemn prophecy that wrathful vengeance is going to descend on Babylon.

ACT FOUR

Nabucco, weaking of a heavy sleep full of nightmares, hears Fenena’s name from the street. He runs to the balcony and backs away in terror on seeing his favourite daughter bound in chains and escorted by soldiers, while all around her echoes the cries of "Death!". In vain he tries to leave the palace, only to find himself a prisoner. Then he knees down in prayer to implore mercy from the God of the Hebrews. The doors immediately open and a band of faithful guards enter: he is no longer a poor madman, for they recognize him as the rightful king. With acclamations they unsheathe their swords and follow him to reclaim his crown and free Fenena. She has already been led with other hebrews to the sacrificial altar erected in the Hanging Gardens, when Nabucco and his followers enter. The idol of Bel is shattered onto fragments and Abigaille, who has poisoned herself, is dragged on. Nabucco and the people of Israel give glory to Jehovah and celebrate their reconquered freedom.


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