Dove sei stato “Attila?”

March 6, 2010 / 1:00 pm ET on Met Opera Radio Broadcast

Photo by Ken Howard

The Cast

Conductor: Riccardo Muti
Odabella: Violeta Urmana
Foresto: Ramón Vargas
Ezio: Carlos Alvarez
Attila: Ildar Abdrazakov

Dramma lirico in a prologue and three acts by GIUSEPPE VERDI to a libretto by TEMISTOCLE SOLERA(with additional material by FRANCESCO MARIA PIAVE) after Zacharias Werner’s play Attila, König der Hunnen; Venice, Teatro La Fenice, 17 March 1846.

Personaggi


Attila King of the Huns bass
Ezio a Roman general baritone
Odabella the Lord of Aquileia’s daughter soprano
Foresto a knight of Aquileia tenor
Uldino a young Breton, Attila’s slave tenor
Leone an old Roman bass
Leaders, kings and soldiers, Huns, Gepids, Ostrogoths, Heruls, Thuringians, Quadi, Druids, priestesses, men and women of Aquileia, Aquileian maidens in warlike dress, Roman officers and soldiers, Roman virgins and children, hermits, slaves
Setting Aquileia, the Adriatic lagoons and near Rome, in the middle of the 5th century

History:

Verdi had read Werner’s ultra-Romantic play as early as 1844, and initially discussed the subject with Piave. However, for his second opera at La Fenice, the composer eventually fixed on Solera, the librettist with whom – at least until then – he seems to have preferred working. Solera set about preparing the text according to his usual format, with plenty of opportunity for grand choral tableaux such as are found in Nabucco and I Lombardi; but the progress of the opera was beset with difficulties. First Verdi fell seriously ill, and then Solera went off to live permanently in Madrid, leaving the last act as only a sketch and necessitating the calling in of the faithful Piave after all. Verdi instructed Piave to ignore Solera’s plans for a large-scale choral finale and to concentrate on the individuals, a change of direction that Solera strongly disapproved of. The première, whose cast included Ignazio Marini (Attila), Natale Costantini (Ezio), Sophie Loewe (Odabella) and Carlo Guasco (Foresto), was coolly received, but Attila went on to become one of Verdi’s most popular operas of the 1850s. After that it lost ground; however, it has recently been more than occasionally revived. In 1846 Verdi twice rewrote the romanza for Foresto in Act 3: the first time for Nicola Ivanoff, the second for Napoleone Moriani.

The prelude follows a pattern that later became common in Verdi’s work: a restrained opening leads to a grand climax, then to the beginnings of melodic continuity that are quickly fragmented. It is the drama in nuce.


Synopsis by Roger Parker

Prologue.i  The piazza of Aquileia  ‘Huns, Heruls and Ostrogoths’ celebrate bloody victories and greet their leader Attila who, in an impressive recitative, bids them sing a victory hymn. A group of female warriors is brought on, and their leader Odabella proclaims the valour and patriotic zeal of Italian women. Odabella’s double aria is a forceful display of soprano power, its first movement, ‘Allor che i forti corrono’ showing an unusually extended form which allows Attila to insert admiring comments. Such is the force of this movement that the cabaletta, ‘Da te questo’, merely continues the musical tone, though with more elaborate ornamentation.

As Odabella leaves, the Roman general Ezio appears for a formal duet with Attila. In the Andante ‘Tardo per gli anni, e tremulo’, Ezio offers Attila the entire Roman empire if Italy can be left unmolested. Attila angrily rejects the proposal, and the warriors end with a cabaletta of mutual defiance, ‘Vanitosi! che abbietti e dormenti’.

Prologue.ii  The Rio-Alto in the Adriatic lagoons  The scene opens with a sustained passage of local colour (strongly suggesting that Verdi now had his eye on the fashions of the French stage). First comes a violent orchestral storm, then the gradual rising of dawn is portrayed with a passage of ever increasing orchestral colours and sounds. Foresto leads on a group of survivors from Attila’s attack on Aquileia. In an Andantino which again shows unusual formal extension, ‘Ella in poter del barbaro’, his thoughts turn to his beloved Odabella, captured by Attila. In the subsequent cabaletta, ‘Cara patria, già madre’, the soloist is joined by the chorus for a rousing conclusion to the scene.

Act 1.i  A wood near Attila’s camp  A melancholy string solo introduces Odabella, who has remained in Attila’s camp in order to find an opportunity to murder him. In a delicately scored Andantino, ‘Oh! nel fuggente nuvolo’, Odabella sees in the clouds the images of her dead father and Foresto. Foresto himself appears: he has seen her with Attila and accuses her of betrayal. Their duet takes on the usual multi-movement pattern: Foresto’s accusations remain through the minor-major Andante, ‘Sì, quello io son, ravvisami’, but Odabella convinces him of her desire to kill Attila, and they lovingly join in a unison cabaletta, ‘Oh t’innebria nell’amplesso’.

1.ii  Attila’s tent, later his camp  Attila tells his slave Uldino of a terrible dream in which an old man denied him access to Rome in the name of God (‘Mentre gonfiarsi l’anima’). But he dismisses the vision with a warlike cabaletta, ‘Oltre quel limite’.

A bellicose vocal blast from Attila’s followers is interrupted by a procession of women and children led by the old man of Attila’s dream. His injunction precipitates the Largo of the concertato finale, ‘No! non è sogno’, which is led off by a terrified Attila, whose stuttering declamation is answered by a passage of sustained lyricism from Foresto and Odabella. The concertato takes on such impressive proportions that Verdi saw fit to end the act there, without the traditional stretta.

Act 2.i  Ezio’s camp  The scene is no more than a conventional double aria for Ezio. In the Andante, ‘Dagl’immortali vertici’, he muses on Rome’s fallen state. Foresto appears and suggests a plan to destroy Attila by surprising him at his camp. In a brash cabaletta, ‘È gettata la mia sorte’, Ezio eagerly looks forward to his moment of glory.

2.ii  Attila’s camp  Yet another warlike chorus begins the scene. Attila greets Ezio, the Druids mutter darkly of fatal portents, the priestesses dance and sing. A sudden gust of wind blows out all the candles, an event that precipitates yet another concertato finale, ‘Lo spirto de’ monti’, a complex movement during which Foresto manages to tell Odabella that Attila’s cup is poisoned. The formal slow movement concluded, Attila raises the cup to his lips, but is warned of the poison by Odabella (who wishes a more personal vengeance); Foresto admits to the crime, and Odabella claims the right to punish him herself. Attila approves, announces that he will marry Odabella the next day, and launches the concluding stretta, ‘Oh miei prodi! un solo giorno’; its dynamism and rhythmic bite prefigure similar moments in Il trovatore.

Act 3  A wood  Foresto is awaiting news of Odabella’s marriage to Attila, and in a minor–major romanza, ‘Che non avrebbe il misero’, bemoans her apparent treachery. Ezio arrives, urging Foresto to speedy battle. A distant chorus heralds the wedding procession, but suddenly Odabella herself appears, unable to go through with the ceremony. Soon all is explained between her and Foresto, and they join Ezio in a lyrical Adagio.

Attila now enters, in search of his bride, and the stage is set for a Quartetto finale. In the Allegro, ‘Tu, rea donna’, Attila accuses the three conspirators in turn, but in turn they answer, each with a different melodic line. At the climax of the number, offstage cries inform us that the attack has begun. Odabella stabs Attila, embraces Foresto, and the curtain falls.

The final act is, as several have pointed out, more than faintly ridiculous in its stage action, and parts of Verdi’s setting seem rather perfunctory; perhaps Solera’s original plan for a grand choral finale would have been more apt. Perhaps, indeed, the central problem with Attila is that it falls uncomfortably between being a drama of individuals (like Ernani or I due Foscari) and one that is essentially public (like Nabucco or I Lombardi). It is surely for this reason that two of the principals, Ezio and Foresto, are vague and undefined, never managing to emerge from the surrounding tableaux. On the other hand, Odabella and Attila, both of whom assume vocal prominence early in the opera, are more powerful dramatic presences. As with all of Verdi’s early operas, there are impressive individual moments, particularly in those grand ensemble movements that constantly inspired the composer to redefine and hone his dramatic language.

The young Verdi

The Met’s “Attila” already making headlines

From the New York Times:  ‘Attila’ and Muti in Debuts at the Met

From the New York Post: Curves banned from “Attila”

From Playbill Arts:  Enter the King: Mounting the Met’s First Attila

Some exclusive photos from Operachic:  Attila is the hunniest!

More on costumes and set on Fashionista.com:  First report of Prada’s costumes for the Metropolitan Opera’s “Attila”

Advertisements

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://thelastverista.com/2010/02/21/dove-sei-stato-attila/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: