Jerusalem. Inside the temple. The Levites and the people lament
the sad destiny of the Jews, defeated by the king of Babylon
Nabucco, who is now at the gates of the city. The chief priest
Zaccaria encourages his followers. The Jews are holding an
important hostage, the daughter of Nabucco, Fenena, whom Zaccaria
hands over to Ismaele, nephew of the king of Jerusalem, for
safekeeping. However, Ismaele promises Fenena her liberty, because
some time ago in Babylon he had been kept hostage and had been
liberated by Fenena, who is in love with him. The two are
organising their flight when Abigaille, supposed daughter of
Nabucco, arrives at the temple at the head of a large contingent of
Babylonians. She too is in love with Ismaele, and threatens to tell
Fenena's father of her planned escape with a foreigner; in the end,
Abigaille declares she will keep silent if Ismaele gives up Fenena.
But he refuses to accept this blackmail. Nabucco, at the head of
his army, crashes onto the scene, having decided to sack the city.
In vain Zaccaria, brandishing a dagger over the head of Fenena,
tries to stop him; Ismaele intervenes and hands Fenena over, safe
and sound, to her father.
The wicked. At the court of Babylon. Abigaille has learned of a
document that reveals her true identity as a slave: hence, the
Babylonians are in error to think she is an heiress to the throne.
Nabucco, in the heat of battle, has nominated Fenena regent of the
city, making Abigaille hate her even more. The high priest of Belo,
allied with Abigaille, tells her that Fenena is setting free all
the Hebrew slaves. Abigaille seizes the opportunity and
contemplates taking over Nabucco's throne. Zaccaria, in the
meantime, announces joyously to the people that Fenena, in love
with Ismaele, has converted to the Hebrew faith. She is joined by
Abdallo, an old officer of the king, who reveals Abigailles's
ambitions and advises her to flee to escape Abigaille's ire. But
there is no time. Abigaille arrives at the head of her magicians,
the high Priest and a crowd of Babylonians. But unexpectedly,
Nabucco also arrives, plants the crown firmly on his own head and
curses the God of the Jews. Then he threatens to kill Zaccaria.
Fenena reveals her conversion to him, but he forces her to kneel
before him in adoration no longer as king, but as a god. The God of
the Jews strikes him down with a lightening bolt. Nabucco,
terrified, falls in agony, while Abigaille puts the coveted crown
onto her own head.
The prophecy. The hanging gardens at the court of Babylon.
Abigaille on the throne receives honours from all the authorities
of the kingdom. Nabucco tries in vain to regain the throne, but is
stopped by the guards. In the following dialogue between the two,
Abigaille, taking advantage of Nabucco's unstable mental condition,
makes him put his royal seal on a document condemning the Jews to
death. In a moment of lucidity, Nabucco realises that he has also
condemned his beloved daughter Fenena and pleads for her salvation.
But Abigaille tears up the document attesting to her state as a
slave and declares herself the only daughter and heir to the
throne. Then she orders the guards to imprison Nabucco. On the
banks of the Euphrates the Hebrews invoke their faraway homeland
and once again Zaccaria tries to console his people with a prophecy
that encourages them to have faith.
The broken idol. From his prison Nabucco sees Fenena taken to
her death among the other Jews. In desperation he turns to the God
of the Hebrews, converting to the faith. When Abdallo and a handful
of soldiers still faithful to the king see Nabucco return to his
senses and his strength, they decide to revolt guided by the old
king. In the hanging gardens a funeral march is playing: the
Hebrews condemned to death are arriving. Zaccaria blesses Fenena, a
martyr. But Nabucco crashes in, the idol Belo falls shattering to
the ground and all the prisoners are freed. Nabucco once more sits
on the throne. Abigaille, dying of self-inflicted poison, asks the
pardon of Fenena and augurs her marriage with Ismaele. Zaccaria
prophecies Nabucco's dominion over all the peoples of the