Zaccariah, the leader of the Hebrews, and Nabucco, the Babylonian king, are polar opposites, both politically and in religious terms. The first tells his people to take courage and believes that God is on his side, while the latter behaves like a true despot.
What follows is a struggle between the oppressed Jewish people and the mighty Babylonian dynasty. When Nabucco's daughter and adopted daughter also fall in love with the prince of the opposing camp, emotions run high.
From its very opening performance Nabucco was a raging success and firmly established Verdi as a composer of innovative music. Va Pensiero, the most famous choral passage, became a truly symbolic passage. The power of the choral scenes contrasts sharply with the sensitivity of the solo arias, and even today is the ideal recipe for gripping drama.