Albery puts the boo into Nabucco

Click to follow

The embattled Royal Opera House yesterday pledged to continue with its production of Nabucco despite the chorus of catcalls and boos which greeted its first night on Tuesday.

The audience was incensed by the way the director, Tim Albery, had interpreted the early Verdi masterpiece telling the Biblical story of King Nebuchadnezzer - Nabucco.

The boos were an identical reaction to his first staging of the production, which Albery directed at the Welsh National Opera last September.

The opera is set in the sixth century BC, when the Babylonian ruler Nabucco sacked Jerusalem, carried the Jews into exile, but then, after being struck mad by God, allowed them to return home.

In a deliberate flouting of conventions, Albery dressed the Israelite women as Victorian prostitutes in ballgowns and the men as early 20th century middle-European Jews. The chorus crawled around the stage daubed with luminous paint, while soldiers in combat fatigues peevishly brandished plastic guns.

The distinguished conductor Sir Edward Downes withdrew before the first night because he was "out of sympathy" with the production.

A Royal Opera House spokeswoman said the opera, a co-production with WNO, would not be cancelled. "That would disappoint a lot of people who have booked and are coming to the performances."

What they boo and why

Harrison Birtwistle's Gawain, Royal Opera House, London 1994: led by composers campaigning against avant-garde.

Das Rheingold, ROH, 1994: the latex suits and flippers in Richard Jones's production.

Don Giovanni, Glyndebourne Festival, 1994: suggestive movements with a statue of Virgin Mary in Deborah Warner's production.