“Ich weiß für mich, dass ich, solang ich mein Erlebnis in Worten zusammenfassen kann, gewiss keine Musik hierüber machen würde.”
(“If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music.”)
Verdi composed Nabucco at a difficult moment in his life. His wife and small children had all just died. He had contracted with La Scala to write another opera and the director forced the libretto into his hands. Returning home, it happened to open to “Va, pensiero” and seeing the phrase, he heard the words singing. At first rehearsal “the stagehands shouted their approval, then beat on the floor and the sets with their tools to create an even noisier demonstration”. As he was subsequently to note, Verdi felt that “this is the opera with which my artistic career really begins. And though I had many difficulties to fight against, it is certain that Nabucco was born under a lucky star”.
Fly, thought, on wings of gold;
go settle upon the slopes and the hills,
where, soft and mild, the sweet airs
of our native land smell fragrant!
Greet the banks of the Jordan
and Zion’s toppled towers…
Oh, my country so beautiful and lost!
Oh, remembrance so dear and so fatal!
Golden harp of the prophetic seers,
why dost thou hang mute upon the willow?
Rekindle our bosom’s memories,
and speak to us of times gone by!
Mindful of the fate of Jerusalem,
give forth a sound of crude lamentation,
or may the Lord inspire you a harmony of voices
which may instill virtue to suffering.