Verdi : AttilaBerlin, 1971 (Audio)
Director: Giuseppe Patane
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Attila is an opera in a prologue and three acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Temistocle Solera, based on the play Attila, König der Hunnen ("Attila, King of the Huns") by Friedrich Ludwig Zacharias Werner.
Initially, Verdi had enlisted Francesco Maria Piave to prepare the libretto, after Verdi's own scenario. After finding Piave's work unsatisfactory, Verdi then turned to Solera, but finally returned to Piave for Act III.
The opera received its first performance at La Fenice, Venice, on 17 March 1846.
Ezio's aria of heroic resolution "E gettata la mia sorte" is a fine example of a characteristic Verdian genre, and achieved fame in its own time with audiences in the context of the adoption of a liberal constitution by Ferdinand II.
Other contemporary comment praised the work as suitable for the "political education of the people", and in contrast criticised the opera as "Teutonic" in nature.
After its world premiere in 1846 at La Fenice in Venice, the opera was first produced in London at Her Majesty's Theatre in 1848, with Sophie Cruvelli, Italo Gardoni, Velletti, Cruzzoni and in New York City in 1850.
In the 20th century, it was revived in concert performance during Venice Festival of 1951 with Mancini, Penno, Giangiacomo, Guelfi, and Italo Tajo, under the conductor Carlo Maria Giulini; and at Sadler's Wells in London in 1963 (with an English libretto), with Rae Woodland, Donald Smith, Mossfield, and Donald McIntyre, with Muir Mathieson conducting. There was a Rome revival a year later, then productions in Trieste in (1965), in Buenos Aires in (1966), in Berlin in (1971), and in 1972 Attila was performed at the Edinburgh Festival and in Florence.
On 21 December 1980, the Vienna State Opera presented a new production conducted by Giuseppe Sinopoli, and staged by Giulio Chazalettes. The cast included Nicolai Ghiaurov as Attila, Piero Cappuccilli as Ezio, Mara Zampieri as Odabella, and Piero Visconti as Foresto.
From 1981 onwards the role of Atilla was taken up by the American bass, Samuel Ramey, who made his first appearances at the New York City Opera in March 1981 in the opera which had not been seen in the city for one hundred and fifty years.
Throughout that decade Ramey "unquestionably rack[ed] up more performances in the role than any bass since its creator" in houses such as La Fenice and San Francisco, finally making an audio recording in 1989 and a video recording in 1991, both under Riccardo Muti.
The Royal Opera House premiered it on 13 October 1990, with Ruggero Raimondi in the title role, Josephine Barstow as Odabella, Giorgio Zancanaro as Ezio, Dennis O'Neill as Foresto, with Edward Downes conducting.
In 1997 it was included as part of the Sarasota Opera's "Verdi Cycle" of all of the composer's operas to be performed before 2013, while in 1998 the Samuel Ramey again appeared in the title role in a production staged by La Scala and filmed for DVD release. In February 2000 a performance was presented by the Opera Orchestra of New York, again featuring Ramey as Attila.
Attila received a concert performance on 8 September 2007 at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, with Ildar Abdrazakov, Hasmik Papian, Paolo Gavanelli, and Massimiliano Pisapia. Jaap van Zweden conducted; a recording and broadcast ensued.
The Metropolitan Opera mounted its first production directed by Pierre Audi on 23 February 2010 conducted by Riccardo Muti, who was making his house debut. Ildar Abdrazakov sang the title role, with Violeta Urmana as Odabella, Ramón Vargas as Foresto, Giovanni Meoni as Ezio, and Samuel Ramey as Leone. Miuccia Prada and the architects Herzog & de Meuron collaborated on costumes and sets. It was presented in September 2011 as part of the Washington Concert Opera's 2011-12 season and will be staged by San Francisco Opera in June 2012.
Time: Mid-5th Century
Place: Aquileia, the Adriatic lagoons, and near Rome
Scene 1: The ruined city of Aquileia
Attila and his victorious horde are surprised to see a group of women spared as prisoners of war. Their leader, Odabella, asks why the Huns' women remain at home (Allor che i forti corrono / "While your warriors rush to their swords like lions"). Attila, impressed by her courage, offers a boon and she asks for her sword to avenge the death of her father at Attila's own hand (Da te questo or m'è concesso / "O sublime, divine justice by thee is this now granted"). The Roman envoy Ezio asks for an audience and proposes a division of the empire: Avrai tu l'universo, Resti l'Italia a me / "You may have the universe, but let Italy remain mine". Attila denounces him as a traitor to his country.
Scene 2: A swamp, the future site of Venice
A boat bearing Foresto and other survivors arrives; he thinks of the captive Odabella (Ella in poter del barbaro / "She is in the barbarian's power!") but then rouses himself and the others to begin building a new city (Cara patria già madre e reina / "Dear homeland, at once mother and queen of powerful, generous sons").
Scene 1: A wood near Attila's camp
Odabela laments her father and Foresto (Oh! Nel fuggente nuvolo / "O father, is your image not imprinted on the fleeting clouds?...") believing the latter to be dead. When he appears, she is put on the defensive, denying any infidelity and reminding him of the biblical Judith. The couple is reunited: Oh, t'inebria nell'amplesso / "O vast joy without measure")
Scene 2: Attila's tent
Attila awakes and tells Uldino of a dream in which an old man stopped him at the gates of Rome and warned him to turn back (Mentre gonfiarsi l'anima parea / "As my soul seemed to swell"). In the daylight, his courage returns and he orders a march (Oltre quel limite, t'attendo, o spettro / "Beyond that boundary I await you, O ghost!"). However, when a procession of maidens clad in white approaches, singing a Christian hymn, he recognizes the Roman bishop Leo as the old man of his dream, and collapses in terror.
Ezio has been recalled, after a peace has been concluded. He contrasts Rome's past glory with the child emperor Valentine (Dagl'immortali vertici / "From the splendid immortal peaks of former glory"). Recognizing the incognito Foresto among the bearers of an invitation to a banquet with Attila, he agrees to join forces (E' gettata la mia sorte / "My lot is cast, I am prepared for any warfare" ). At the banquet, Foresto's plot to have Uldino poison Attila is foiled by Odabella, jealous of her own revenge. A grateful (and unsuspecting) Attila declares she shall be his wife, and places the unmasked Foresto in her custody.
Uldino informs Foresto about the plans for the wedding of Odabella and Attila; Foresto laments Odabella's apparent betrayal (Che non avrebbe il misero / "What would that wretched man not have offered for Odabella). Ezio arrives with a plan to ambush the Huns; when Odabella comes Foresto accuses her of treachery, but she pleads for his trust. Attila finds the three and recognizes their betrayal. As Roman soldiers approach, Odabella stabs him with the sword he had given her. The three conspirators cry that the people have been avenged.
Jose van Dam