Júlia Várady, the Nagyvárad-born soprano, turns seventy today.
This clip from a 1995 staging of Nabucco at the Opéra national de Paris shows her as a formidable Abigaille alongside the Fenena of Violeta Urmana and the Ismaele of José Cura. (Some cast, that! Check out the clip of Urmana singing “O, dischiuso è il firmamento” from the same production for proof of the old platitude that there are no small parts, only small players.)
Abigaille is often said to be a voice-breaker, impossible to cast, and all the rest, perhaps because it seemed to hasten the vocal decline of the very first Abigaille, Giuseppina Strepponi. Yet I think that Várady shows that an intelligent singer with a moderate-sized voice and (yes) real vocal chops—the kind of chops one needs to sing, say, Fiordiligi, Donna Elvira, or Vitellia (though not necessarily Isolde or Turandot)—can sing this rôle quite effectively.
Today’s clip includes part of the Act I finale, and the “Dischiuso” clip includes the opera’s finale, with Abigaille’s death scene. All in all, this Paris Nabucco looks to be one of the better ones out there, and I look forward to viewing and hearing it in full.