Nabucco was Verdi's third opera: it's built on a grand canvas and brims with youthful energy and colour – all of these being attributes that Los Angeles loves in its self-image. So Thaddeus Strassberger's production plays perfectly to this audience: it's big, it's bold, it's colourful and it's opulent – as well as including improbably playful touches. This is Nabucco à la Ben Hur, down to the giant chariot on the curtain, and if the technology for the scenery comes from the 18th century – a receding series of trompe l'oeil painted backdrops – who's to argue when the results are at quite this level of eye candy?

Plácido Domingo (Nabucco) © Ken Howard | LA Opera
Plácido Domingo (Nabucco)
© Ken Howard | LA Opera

Mattie Ullrich's costumes and Strassberger's scenery designs were generically ancient world, without too much attention being paid to exactly which period apart from a passable imitation of the gold-on-blue figures on Babylon's Ishtar Gate. They were nothing short of sumptuous, and supplemented by being a kind of play-within-a-play frame: each overture was accompanied by Verdi-era ballroom dancers – with more hoops and crinoline than I've seen in many a moon – who then retired to a set of Italianate boxes at each side of the stage to watch the action.

Morris Robinson (Zaccaria) threatens Nancy Fabiola Herrera (Fenena) © Ken Howard | LA Opera
Morris Robinson (Zaccaria) threatens Nancy Fabiola Herrera (Fenena)
© Ken Howard | LA Opera

This scale of setting demands big voices, and in the first big aria, it certainly got that. Morris Robinson, singing Zaccaria, is a giant figure of a man, with an enormous, deep voice to match. And then, of course, we had the entrance of Abigaille in the shape of Liudmyla Monastyrska. While it's unfair to describe Monastyrska as a belter, since she does sing the softer interludes with good control of legato and pianissimi, she's at her most exciting when she throws out an arm of command and goes for it: a voice to make a man quake at her sheer power and authority – as well as admire the purity of tone and lack of harshness. Nancy Fabiola Herrera made the most of the lesser role of Fenena; Mario Chang was a pleasant Ismaele but I would have like to hear his voice open out into a something bit more rounded.

Liudmyla Monstyrska (Abigaille) © Ken Howard | LA Opera
Liudmyla Monstyrska (Abigaille)
© Ken Howard | LA Opera

Plácido Domingo is adored here: he is LA Opera's general director and audience members told me how opera of this calibre simply wouldn't exist without him. I'm guessing that he would have been given a rapturous reception regardless of how he sung, but the rapture was justified. In recent years, Domingo seems to invented a whole new genre of singing – a Verdi baritenor, if you like – in which a voice with all the qualities of a dramatic tenor occupies the baritone register. It doesn't sound like any Verdi baritone I've ever heard, but it does sound good – clear, lyrical and urgent. And Domingo remains a peerless singing actor, eloquently handling the difficult switch from young despot to broken man.

The orchestral performance started inauspiciously with the opening brass chords wobbling dreadfully. But the fears that raised were unfounded: James Conlon kept things moving with plenty of Italianate brio to match the brightness of the decor and the singing. The chorus also started slowly, with the Act I numbers subdued, but achieved full voice in time for the iconic “Va, pensiero sul ali dorate” in Act 4.

Plácido Domingo (Nabucco) © Ken Howard | LA Opera
Plácido Domingo (Nabucco)
© Ken Howard | LA Opera

I can't avoid mentioning a fair number of glitches, some of them comical. If you have a fluted column which is actually a trompe l'oeil drape, the effect of solidity is badly damaged when a chorus member brushes past the drape; it's also not good to be caught on the wrong side of a drop curtain from your soldier colleagues and have to scamper offstage. Monastyrska sang her aria “Anch'io dischiuso un giorno” and its ensuing cabaletta beautifully, but she failed to hit the closing high note in the middle. Domingo faded somewhat in Act 3, to return more strongly in the closing straight.

A small voice in my head was complaining that this was all a bit traditional and unsophisticated. But that small voice was wrong: the truth is that I enjoyed the evening's opera immensely, as a celebration of the sheer energy of the young Verdi. And the evening was capped in style, the curtain calls being interrupted by some horseplay on stage culminating in James Conlon conducting everyone in a singalong of “Va pensiero”, the Italian text put up on the surtitles. Anyone who gives me the chance to do that gets my vote.