Opera on the Mall attracts nearly 4,000 guests for Verdi’s NABUCCO

It was a gorgeous night for some open-air opera.

On Saturday evening, Sept. 28, nearly 4,000 people filled Independence National Historical Park to enjoy an HD broadcast of Opera Philadelphia’s season-opening production of Verdi’s Nabucco.  It was the third year of Opera on the Mall, and the lawn outside of Independence Hall was filled with opera-loving Philadelphians who had registered a month in advance, as well as tourists who had stumbled upon the event after visiting the city’s historic sites. Many asked why a giant screen had been set up on Chestnut Street. When told it was for a free opera about a struggle for independence, to be broadcast in front of Independence Hall, many had the same response – “Where do I sign up?

Before the broadcast, children tossed a football while adults ate from picnic baskets and sipped from wine glasses.  They learned about the history, design and characters of Nabucco and met the cast while watching the pre-show produced by WHYY and Opera Philadelphia. Event programs printed by Metro gave more interesting background on the production, and the buzz on social media grew as attendees shared their thoughts using the hashtag #onthemall, which was one of the top trending tags in Philadelphia for the evening.

And then, after welcoming remarks from Cynthia MacLeod, Superintendent of Independence National Historical Park, and David B. Devan, General Director and President of Opera Philadelphia, the broadcast began. For nearly three hours, guests were mesmerized by director Thaddeus Strassberger’s gorgeous production and the talents of stars Sebastian Catana (Nabucco), Csilla Boross (Abigaille), Morris Robinson (Zaccaria), Adam Diegel (Ismaele), Margaret Mezzacappa (Fenena) and Musa Ngqungwana (High Priest of Baal). Conductor Corrado Rovaris led an energized Opera Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Opera Philadelphia Chorus stole the show with an amazing performance, especially on the opera’s signature chorus, “Va, pensiero.” The crowd sat in a stunned silence during the a cappella reprise of “Va, pensiero” that closed the show, before bursting into applause and buzzing their way out from a night of opera under the stars.

Opera on the Mall was made possible by the William Penn Foundation and the Wyncote Foundation. Nabucco was underwritten by Mrs. John P. Mulroney.