AMERICAN WEST SYMPHONY AND CHORUS, "Nabucco," Assembly Hall, Friday, May 21, 7:30 p.m. Second performance Saturday, May 22, 7:30 p.m. Free admission.Music director Joel Rosenberg and his American West Symphony and Chorus scored another first Friday evening. They gave the first performance in Utah of Giuseppe Verdi's early opera, "Nabucco."

This was also one of the finest performances by the orchestra and chorus. Rosenberg is an excellent conductor who knows how to get a first-rate performance out of his musicians.

The orchestra turned in a solid performance right from the opening notes of the overture. The brass section must specifically be mentioned here. The music of "Nabucco" relies heavily on the brass, and the American West brass section acquitted themselves admirably.

The chorus, too, was in fine form. The opening choral number ("Gli arredi festivi giu cadano infranti") got off to a somewhat shaky start, though. The men were overpowered by the brass, and when the women came in, they sounded a bit unsure. But towards the end of this number the members of the chorus had found their voice, and they finished this movement on a strong note. And after that, they sounded wonderful.

Rosenberg has also assembled some marvelous soloists: Greg Pearson, George Dyer, Travis Lewis, Marie-Adele McArthur and Mary Ann Dresher. All of these artists, except for Lewis, who is making his local debut in these performances, have performed extensively in the Salt Lake area. These singers have fine voices, and they were cast perfectly.

McArthur, Pearson and Lewis have strong, powerful voices that allowed them to be heard above the orchestra. Dresher and Dyer, on the other hand, have lyrical, expressive voices. Unfortunately, they sang small roles, so the audience didn't get much of a chance to hear them sing.

There were many highlights in this performance. McArthur was outstanding in her aria "Anch'o dischiuso un giorno." And she and Pearson were incredible in the duets "Oh, di qual'onta aggravasi" and "Deh, perdona."

Lewis was in top form in "D'Egitto la sui lidi" and in "Come notte a sol fugente."

The opera's most famous number, though, the touching and expressive chorus "Va pensiero, sull'ali dorati," was sung beautifully and convincingly by the American West Chorus.