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La Scala Opens To Tumultuous Applause In Tokyo

September 1, 1988

TOKYO (AP) _ Italy’s famed La Scala opera troupe opened its second tour of Japan on Thursday with a stirring rendition of Verdi’s ″Nabucco″ that earned 11 curtain calls.

Musical Director Riccardo Muti and an 80-member orchestra brought 3,500 opera fans to their feet at the end of the four-hour performance.

″All of the music was just wonderful,″ said Tadae Nashida, one of the spectators.

″It’s a very difficult opera to watch, you need to study the text carefully first,″ Mrs. Nashida said. ″But the melodies were so easy to become attached to.″

The cast was led by baritone Renato Bruson in the title role of Nabucco, king of Babylon, and tenor Bruno Beccaria as Ismael, nephew of the king of Jerusalem.

But charismatic bass Paata Burchuladze as the high priest Zaccaria, and powerful soprano Ghena Dimitrova as Nabucco’s jealous adopted daughter Abigaille stole the show and grabbed the loudest applause of the 13 -minute ovation.

″We expect a triumph,″ said Renato Garavaglia, chief of La Scala’s press office, before the show.

″1981 was very triumphant for us,″ Garavaglia said of La Scala’s previous visit to Japan. ″Japanese people are better than we expected.″

La Scala Director General Carlo Maria Badini said he was delighted with the audience’s reaction to Nabucco.

″It was a fantastic reaction: intelligent, passionate. These people know well the Italian music,″ Badini said backstage at Tokyo’s NHK Hall.

″But Nabucco is not one of Verdi’s popular operas. It’s not like La Traviata,″ he said. ″It’s very important to show it to the Japanese public ... we’re making it into a popular Verdi opera.″

The Milan-based opera shipped to Japan the stunning sets for which it is renowned, with only slight alterations necessary.

″The technicians know very well this theater, where we played in 1981,″ Garavaglia said. ″There are some adjustments, a little cut of scenes, but it’s not a problem because our scenes are elastic.″

The dazzling sets of huge snarling lions, or tremendous sweeping wings drew gasps from Thursday’s audience who paid up to 40,000 yen (298 U.S. dollars) to attend opening night.

They were luckier than opera afficionados in Seoul, South Korea, where last week La Scala performed Puccini’s ″Turandot″ - minus the lavish set, which had been shipped to Tokyo.

″That was a good audience too. They appreciated it very much with nine minutes of applause,″ said Garavaglia. ″For Seoul that is very good.″

La Scala’s month-long, 16-show tour of Tokyo and Yokohama includes Turandot, Puccini’s ″La Boheme″ and Bellini’s ″I Capuleti e i Montecchi.″

Equipment was shipped over in 63 40-foot containers, and it took 150 trucks to deliver the sets, costumes and props for Nabucco and Turandot alone.

About 550 performers, musicians and machinists made the trip from Italy, and 200 extras have been hired from the foreign community for the crowd scenes.

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