Tune of the Day: Va', pensiero
Arguably the best-known number ever written by Giuseppe Verdi, the “Chorus of Hebrew Slaves”, Va', pensiero, sull'ali dorate (“Fly, thought, on golden wings”), is regularly given an encore when performed today; indeed, it is the only encore Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine has ever allowed.
This chorus from the third act of Nabucco (1842), inspired by Psalm 137. recollects the story of Jewish exiles from Babylon after the loss of the First Temple in Jerusalem. The opera, with its powerful chorus, established Verdi as a major composer in 19th century Italy.
Some scholars initially regarded it as an anthem for Italian patriots, who were seeking to unify their country in the years up to 1861 and free it from foreign control. The chorus' theme of exiles singing about their homeland, and its lines like O mia patria, si bella e perduta (“O my country, so beautiful and so lost”) was thought to have resonated with many Italians. However, much of modern scholarship has refuted this concept, and fails to see connections between Nabucco and Italian nationalism.