March 06, 2019

A First Look at "Nabucco" with Director Matthew Ozawa

Love, death, oppression, redemption…just a few words director Matthew Ozawa uses to describe Verdi’s majestic opera Nabucco. “This opera is mammoth and rarely done…it feels electric at every twist and turn.” 

While Ozawa has called Lyric, and Chicago, home for almost eight years, Nabucco will be his mainstage directorial debut following directing credits at Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet, Santa Fe Opera, and more. In recalling his first visit to Lyric years ago, Ozawa said, “I sat in the very last row of the theater, and I remember wishing that I would one day direct in the beautiful Civic Opera find myself making my debut at Lyric is an actual dream come true.”

First performed in 1841, Nabucco is credited as Giuseppe Verdi’s first major success. Simply put, it’s the opera that made him a star. On a grand scale, the story follows the plight of the Israelites who have been exiled from their homeland by the Babylonian King, Nabucco; however, at the heart of the opera lies a love triangle. Ozawa says the emotions and relationships of these two groups feed off one another. They are “deep, powerful, and unbelievably human.”

Directing a cast of more than 120 people can be daunting but Ozawa is ready: “I know this exceptional chorus very well, and I believe they are one of the best in the nation, if not the world.” As for the principals, he says “the charisma, vocal power, and physical presence of this cast is off the charts….It will be an honor to craft their dynamic characters with them during the rehearsal process.”

Nabucco is opera at its most spectacular,” says Ozawa. “It is epic in story, musically pulls you in every direction, and dramatically fills you with awe. The story reaches the core of what makes us human. It has melodies that are easy to listen to, the singing is superhuman, and the dramatic story zips along.”

Director Matthew Ozawa is excited to bring his own contemporary view to the piece while honoring the original production’s tradition and artistry. “Opera on this scale can only be done by a few companies in the nation, and Lyric Opera of Chicago is one of them. This is not a show to miss!”

Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable TrustThe Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust, the Harris Family Foundation, and Katherine A. Abelson and Robert J. Cornell are the generous sponsors of Lyric’s presentation of Verdi's Nabucco.

Lyric Opera production originally made possible by the Gramma Fisher Foundation of Marshalltown, Iowa.

Photos: Cory Weaver/San Diego Opera