What’s up at the Met this Week? Verdi and some more of “The Bat”


Ambrogio Maestri as Verdi’s Buffone Tragico, “Falstaff”

Canadian Opera Company presents operatic favourite, “Il Trovatore,” with a world-class cast in debut performances


August 16, 2012

Toronto – The Canadian Opera Company’s 2012/2013 season opens with the quintessential Italian opera, Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore, featuring internationally renowned Mexican tenor Ramón Vargas and acclaimed Canadian baritone Russell Braun in role debut performances.  A staple of the operatic repertoire, Il Trovatore has mesmerized audiences since its premiere in 1853 with its fiery, melodramatic tale of the vengeful gypsy Azucena, her son Manrico’s romance with the noblewoman Leonora, and his rivalry with Conte di Luna.  Last performed by the COC in 2005, Il Trovatore returns with director Charles Roubaud’s acclaimed production from Opéra de Marseille and celebrated conductor Marco Guidarini leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus through Verdi’s rich score.  Il Trovatore is sung in Italian with English SURTITLES™ and runs for 10 performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on Sept. 29, Oct. 2, 5, 10, 13, 19, 21, 25, 28, and 31, 2012.

It’s been said that all it takes for a successful performance of Il Trovatore are four of the greatest singers in the world to fulfil the demanding roles of Manrico, Conte di Luna, Azucena and Leonora.  The COC has brought together a world-class cast to helm Verdi’s thrilling tale of love, hate and revenge.  Ramón Vargas, one of the leading tenors of our time, who last appeared with the COC for the company’s 60th anniversary concert, returns to make his mainstage and role debut as the rebel troubadour Manrico.  He’s joined in the role by Italian tenor Riccardo Massi, who’s quickly gathering international acclaim following debut performances at La Scala, Glyndebourne Festival, Staatsoper Berlin and Metropolitan Opera.  Massi makes his COC debut when he sings Manrico on Oct. 28 and 31, 2012.  Cast as Manrico’s rival, the Conte di Luna, is internationally acclaimed Canadian baritone Russell Braun.  He, too, marks a role debut with this production, returning to the company after dazzling COC audiences and critics alike in 2012’s Love from Afar and 2011’s Iphigenia in Tauris.  Russian mezzo-soprano Elena Manistinamakes her COC debut as the gypsy Azucena, bringing her vocal power and dramatic command to a role she reprises following performances at Gran Teatre del Liceu and Opéra national de Bordeaux.  South African soprano Elza van den Heever makes her COC debut as the lovelorn Leonora, following a season of triumphant performances with Hamburgische Staatsoper, Oper Frankfurt, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Opéra National de Bordeaux.

Ukrainian bass Dmitry Beloselsky, a soloist with the Bolshoi Theatre who is quickly making a name for himself with performances at the Metropolitan Opera and Salzburg Festival, appears with the COC for the first time as di Luna’s officer, Ferrando.  COC Ensemble Studio mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb, recently heard in last spring’s Gianni Schicchi and the Ensemble Studio performance of Semele, is Leonora’s confidante, Inez; rising young Mexican-American tenor Edgar Ernesto Ramírez has his COC debut as Manrico’s aide, Ruiz; COC Ensemble Studio graduate bass Robert Gleadow, recently heard as the Speaker in 2011’s The Magic Flute, is the Old Gypsy; and new COC Ensemble Studio tenor Owen McCausland makes his company mainstage debut as the Messenger.

CANADIAN OPERA COMPANY Announces 2012/2013 Season

Toronto – The Canadian Opera Company unveiled a stellar artistic line-up for its 2012/2013 season today at a press conference at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. The company’s 63rd season is a celebration of opera’s greatest masterpieces and features the return of works both long absent and familiar to the COC stage. The COC presents Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore, Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus in a new COC production, Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito, Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Richard Strauss’s Salome and Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites.

A dazzling array of the opera world’s leading artists will appear with the COC in 12/13. No less than 33 singers, conductors, directors and designers make their company debuts, including singers Anna Christy, Stephen Costello, Melanie Diener, Elza van den Heever, Isabel Leonard, Brian Mulligan, Franz-Josef Selig and Erika Sunnegårdh; conductor Jiří Bělohlávek; director Peter Sellars; and visual artists Jean-Noël Lavesvre and Bill Viola. Returning artists include singers Isabel Bayrakdarian, Russell Braun, Judith Forst, Alan Held, Ben Heppner, Richard Margison, Adrianne Pieczonka, Michael Schade, Ramón Vargas and Tamara Wilson; conductor Stephen Lord; directors Christopher Alden, David Alden, Robert Carsen and Atom Egoyan; and designer Michael Levine. All performances take place in the company’s home, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, and feature the renowned COC Orchestra and Chorus.

Baritone, Russell Braun

Soprano, Adrianne Pieczonka

Tenor, Ramon Vargas

Rising Tenor, Stephen Costello

“I’m very proud of the artists and productions the COC has secured for its 12/13 season. Exceptional artists enjoy working with exceptional companies, and the COC has become a destination for artists of a truly remarkable calibre.” says COC General Director Alexander Neef. “The 12/13 season has an ambitious and creative vision that distinguishes the Canadian Opera Company as a home for truly special programming devoted to achieving the greatest heights of artistic excellence.”

The Canadian Opera Company’s 12/13 season opens with the quintessential Italian opera, Giuseppe Verdi’s
Il Trovatore, last performed by the COC in 2005. A staple of the operatic repertoire, Il Trovatore has mesmerized audiences since its premiere in 1853 with its scorching tale of the vengeful gypsy Azucena, her son Manrico’s romance with the noblewoman Leonora, and his rivalry with the Conte di Luna. A world-class cast helms this fiery melodrama: internationally renowned Mexican tenor Ramón Vargas, who appeared with the COC for the company’s 60th anniversary concert, makes his mainstage and role debut as Manrico; acclaimed Canadian baritone Russell Braun (Jaufré in the COC’s 11/12 production of Love from Afar) makes his role debut as the Conte di Luna; South-African soprano Elza van den Heever, in a COC debut, appears as Leonora; and Russian mezzo-soprano Elena Manistina makes her COC debut as the gypsy Azucena, a role she reprises following performances with Gran Teatre del Liceu and Opéra National de Bordeaux. Rounding out the cast is Italian tenor Riccardo Massi, in his COC debut, who sings the role of Manrico for two performances. Ukrainian bass Dmitry Beloselsky appears with the COC for the first time as Ferrando. The COC’s Il Trovatore features director Charles Roubaud’s acclaimed production from Opéra de Marseille and celebrated conductor Marco Guidarini leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus through Verdi’s rich score, which highlights some of Romantic opera’s most beautiful and recognizable music. Designer and sculptor Jean-Noël Lavesvre has created an atmospheric set that is at once castle and gypsy camp.

Il Trovatore is sung in Italian with English SURTITLESTM and runs for 10 performances at the
Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on Sept. 29, Oct. 2, 5, 10, 13, 19, 21, 25, 28, and 31, 2012.

The fall season continues with Johann Strauss II’s popular operetta, Die Fledermaus. In this hilarious comedy, with its screwball plot of elaborate revenge, disguises, mistaken identity and spouses pushing the boundaries of each other’s fidelity, Strauss outdid his own reputation as the “waltz king” of Vienna by composing some of opera’s most gorgeous dance music. Absent from the COC stage for more than 20 years, Die Fledermaus returns in a new production by director Christopher Alden (2011’s Rigoletto and 2010’s The Flying Dutchman). Set in early-20th century Vienna, Alden’s staging will conjure up a glamorous world bubbling with extravagance and sophisticated wit, while gently mocking the duplicity of people and the larger social hypocrisies they inhabit. COC Music Director Johannes Debus leads the COC Orchestra and Chorus through a score that has come to embody high-spirited celebration since the opera’s premiere in 1873. Die Fledermaus features a cast of largely Canadian voices, led by internationally renowned Canadian tenor Michael Schade. Last with the COC in 2011’s The Magic Flute, Schade returns to make his role debut as Gabriel von Eisenstein, an affluent gentleman who delays serving a short prison sentence by way of a quick frolic at an extravagant party. American soprano Tamara Wilson (2010’s Idomeneo) returns to delight audiences as Rosalinde, Eisenstein’s wife, whose disguised appearance at the same party has mischievous consequences for her husband. Mezzo-soprano Laura Tucker (2004’s Die Walküre) returns to the COC as Prince Orlofsky, the host of the elaborate costume party. Current and former COC Ensemble Studio artists make up several of the operetta’s comedic characters: Ensemble sopranos Ambur Braid and Mireille Asselin share the role of Eisenstein’s maid, Adele; Ensemble graduate baritone Peter Barrett (2011’s Ariadne auf Naxos) is Dr. Falke; Ensemble tenor Christopher Enns is Alfred, who mistakenly goes to jail in place of Eisenstein; and Ensemble graduate baritone James Westman (2009’s Madama Butterfly) is Frank, the prison’s governor. American tenor David Cangelosi (Spoletta in the COC’s 11/12 production of Tosca) is Dr. Blind. Die Fledermaus is sung in German with English SURTITLESTM and runs for 11 performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on Oct. 4, 9, 12, 14, 17, 20, 24, 27, 30, Nov. 1 and 3, 2012.

The COC opens its winter season with one of music history’s most influential works, Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. This production by legendary director Peter Sellars stars celebrated Canadian tenor Ben Heppner in his signature role, one that critics have hailed as a “translucent and exalted performance.”
Making his company debut leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus is one of the most sought after and respected conductors in the world today, Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra Jiří Bělohlávek. This is the first time that Sellars’ awe-inspiring production of Tristan und Isolde will be seen in Canada, with the COC recreating the Opéra national de Paris production that premiered in 2005. Sellars’ staging for Tristan und Isolde comes to life with video imagery by internationally renowned video artist Bill Viola, who, says Sellars, “has come up with an image of the scale and scope, grandeur and immensity, and genuine transcendence that Wagner was imagining.” Singing opposite Heppner is a German soprano known for her mastery of the Mozart, Strauss and Wagner repertoire, Melanie Diener, in her COC debut as Isolde. German bass Franz-Josef Selig makes his COC debut as King Marke of Cornwall, the man betrayed by Tristan and Isolde’s love affair. The role of Isolde’s maid, Brangäne, is sung by Greek-American mezzo-soprano Daveda Karanas, and American bass-baritone Alan Held (Simone and Gianni Schicchi in the COC’s upcoming double bill of A Florentine Tragedy/Gianni Schicchi) is Tristan’s servant, Kurwenal. American bass-baritone Ryan McKinney is the courtier Melot, and Ensemble Studio graduates bass Robert Gleadow and tenor Adam Luther return as the Steersman and the Sailor/Shepherd, respectively. German tenor Burkhard Fritz and American soprano Margaret Jane Wray will sing the roles of Tristan and Isolde for two performances. Last seen at the COC in 1987, Tristan und Isolde returns for seven performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on Jan. 29, Feb. 2, 8, 14, 17, 20 and 23, 2013, and is sung in German with English SURTITLESTM.

The winter 2013 season continues with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s final opera, La clemenza di Tito. Containing some of opera’s most sublime music, La clemenza di Tito was written to celebrate the coronation of Emperor Leopold II as King of Bohemia in 1791. In its telling of the attempted assassination of the Emperor Tito and his forgiveness of those who betrayed him, the opera was meant to reflect in the titular emperor’s mercy, a quality that the populace might have hoped for in their new king. Michael Schade returns to the COC for the second time in the 12/13 season to perform Tito, a role which has won him acclaim from Salzburg to Washington where his singing was praised for its “unflagging intensity and musical intelligence” (Washington Post). Making her COC debut as Sesto, Tito’s friend, is Met regular and one of the finest mezzo- sopranos on the operatic stage today, American Isabel Leonard. Ensemble Studio soprano Mireille Asselin performs the role of Servilia, Sesto’s sister, and cast as the vengeful Vitellia is rising opera star American soprano Keri Alkema (appearing with the COC in this spring’s The Tales of Hoffmann). The COC also welcomes back Ensemble Studio alumni mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta as Annio and bass Robert Gleadow as Publio. COC Music Director Johannes Debus once more leads the COC Orchestra and Chorus and he’s joined by director Christopher Alden, with a production described by the Chicago Tribune at its 2009 premiere by Chicago Opera Theater as “an evening of modern music theatre you mustn’t miss.” La clemenza di Tito is sung in Italian with English SURTITLESTM and was last performed by the COC in 1991. It runs for nine performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on Feb. 3, 6*, 7, 9, 11, 13, 16, 19 and 22, 2013.

The exciting young singers of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio perform Mozart’s
La clemenza di Tito on Feb. 6, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. on the mainstage. This special performance stars the Ensemble members with the full COC Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of La clemenza di Tito’s conductor Johannes Debus and director Christopher Alden. For casting, please visit the COC website at coc.ca. Tickets are accessibly priced at $22 and $55 per person.

Opening the COC’s spring season is Gaetano Donizetti’s bel canto masterpiece, Lucia di Lammermoor, starring American soprano Anna Christy in a production created for her by director David Alden for English National Opera. Christy’s shattering performance in the title role was met with critical and popular acclaim when the production premiered at ENO in 2008. Alden’s production transports audiences into the darkly brooding world of Sir Walter Scott’s Gothic novel in which Lucia is treated as little more than chattel within a brutal, power-driven society. “[Christy’s] doll-like Lucia is all fey intensity, unaware of her sexual allure and pitched from the start at the edge of sanity. Her dazzling sketched coloratura in the mad scene is electrifying” said The Daily Telegraph. American tenor Stephen Costello and American baritone Brian Mulligan make their COC debuts as Lucia’s lover, Edgardo, and Lucia’s vengeful brother, Enrico, respectively. American tenor Nathaniel Peake, a 2010 Metropolitan Opera National Council Winner, is Arturo, and American bass Oren Gradus sings Raimondo. Stephen Lord, named one of the “25 Most Powerful Names in U.S. Opera” by Opera News, leads the COC Orchestra and Chorus conducting Donizetti’s cascading romantic melodies. Lucia di Lammermoor is sung in Italian with English SURTITLESTM and runs for nine performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on April 17, 20, 26, 30, May 9, 12, 15, 18 and 24, 2013.

The spring season continues with the return of celebrated Canadian director Atom Egoyan with his searing, critically acclaimed COC production of Richard Strauss’s Salome. Adapted from Oscar Wilde’s play, the opera recounts the biblical story of Salome, who – to the horror of her stepfather Herod – demands the head of John the Baptist in return for performing the Dance of the Seven Veils. At the opera’s 1905 premiere, the audience and critics were shocked by its subject matter and erotic themes; Salome’s world of voyeurism and sexual abuse still elicits an equally visceral response today. In past presentations of this production, in 1996 and 2002, the COC’s Salome was described as a “brilliant modern day interpretation” that is “lusty,” “provocative,” “marvellously wicked and wickedly marvellous,” and “relevant to a 21st-century audience.” In Swedish-American soprano Erika Sunnegårdh, the COC has a Salome who can meet the vocal and physical demands of one of opera’s most challenging roles. Rounding out the impressive cast is a line-up of familiar and new opera stars: Canadian Richard Margison, making his role debut as Herod; German baritone Martin Gantner, in his COC debut, and American bass-baritone Alan Held, share the role of Jochanaan (John the Baptist); and Swiss mezzo-soprano Julia Juon is Salome’s mother, Herodias, in a COC debut performance. American tenor Nathaniel Peake sings Narraboth, the captain of the guard, and Israeli mezzo-soprano Maya Lahyani comes to the COC for the first time as the Page. COC Music Director Johannes Debus conducts Strauss’s ecstatic and intoxicating music. Sung in German with English SURTITLESTM, Salome runs for eight performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on April 21, 27, May 1, 4, 7, 10, 16 and 22, 2013.

Bringing the COC’s 12/13 season to a close is Francis Poulenc’s operatic masterpiece, Dialogues des Carmélites, in a production by Robert Carsen. The acclaimed Canadian director returns to the COC for a third consecutive season (2010/2011’s Orfeo ed Euridice, 2011/2012’s Iphigenia in Tauris) to direct a cast of 150 performers in a production described by Variety as “subtle, yet gut-wrenching.” COC Music Director Johannes Debus makes his fourth conducting appearance of the 12/13 season leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus through what is considered to be Poulenc’s most haunting score and a work that contains one of opera’s most devastating and unforgettable final scenes. Set design is by acclaimed Canadian designer Michael Levine. Dialogues des Carmélites’ beautiful music sets the tone for the story of an order of Carmelite nuns caught up in the terror of the French Revolution. Leading the primarily Canadian cast are internationally renowned stars: soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian (2011’s Orfeo ed Euridice) as the young aristocrat Blanche trying to escape the turmoil of the Revolution; mezzo-soprano Judith Forst (2002’s The Queen of Spades) as Madame de Croissy, the prioress of the convent; and soprano Adrianne Pieczonka (starring in the COC’s 11/12 production of Tosca), in her role debut, as Madame Lidoine, the new prioress. They are joined by soprano Hélène Guilmette, making her COC debut as Soeur Constance; Moldavian powerhouse Irina Mishura (2009’s Rusalka, 2005’s Il Trovatore) as Mère Marie, tenor Frédéric Antoun (2011’s The Magic Flute) as Chevalier de la Force and Jean-François Lapointe as Marquis de la Force. Carsen brings his signature high-impact approach to this production, which has been seen at some of the world’s great opera houses, including La Scala, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam. Last performed by the opera company in 1997, Dialogues des Carmélites runs for eight performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on May 8, 11, 14, 17, 19, 21, 23
and 25, 2013, and is sung in French with English SURTITLESTM.

All repertoire, dates, pricing, productions, and casting are subject to change without notice. For more complete casting and creative team information, please see the production pages at coc.ca.

The Canadian Opera Company webcast the announcement of its 12/13 season live on coc.ca on Jan. 18, 2012, at 10 a.m. from the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. The webcast is available for streaming.

For more information on the Canadian Opera Company’s 12/13 season, please visit coc.ca.


Die Fledermaus has been generously underwritten by the Catherine and Maxwell Meighen Foundation

Tristan und Isolde has been generously underwritten by Lisa Balfour Bowen and Walter M. Bowen, Philip Deck and Kimberley Bozak, Donald O’Born, Colleen Sexsmith and Sandra L. Simpson

Tristan und Isolde Production Sponsor: BMO Financial Group
Lucia di Lammermoor Production Co-sponsors: CIBC and CIBC Mellon

Presenting Sponsor of SURTITLESTM: Sun Life Financial
Official Automotive Sponsor of the COC at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts: Jaguar Land

Rover Canada
Broadcast Partner: CBC Radio 2
Official Media Sponsors: CTV and The Globe and Mail Digital Marketing Sponsor: Delvinia

The COC Ensemble Studio is Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals and provides advanced instruction, hands-on experience, and career development opportunities. The Ensemble Studio is supported by the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage, RBC Foundation and other generous donors.


Subscriptions to the seven mainstage productions for the COC’s 12/13 season range from $175 to $1,281, with Grand Ring (box level) seat subscriptions available at $1,869 and $2,289, and may be purchased online at coc.ca, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre Box Office, 145 Queen St. W., Toronto. Subscriptions are now on sale. Prices include HST.

Single tickets to all of the COC’s 12/13 season productions are available to the public as of Aug. 27, 2012. Single ticket prices range from $45 to $219 ($45 to $263 for Tristan und Isolde), with Grand Ring (box level) seat tickets available at $265 and $325 ($265 and $390 for Tristan und Isolde). Prices include HST.

Young People
Special young people’s tickets for all performances throughout the season are priced from $23 to $110, including HST. These ticket prices apply to those who are 15 years of age or under, accompanied by, and sitting next to an adult.

Opera Under 30
Young adults between the ages of 16 and 29 may purchase specially priced $22 tickets through the COC’s Opera Under 30 program approximately two weeks prior to each of the fall, winter and spring seasons: Sept. 15, 2012; Jan. 19, 2013; and April 6, 2013. Opera Under 30 is presented by TD Bank Group. A total of 150 seats, each priced at $22, will be reserved for every COC performance and will be available for purchase through Opera Under 30 to student groups and subject to availability on the day of a performance.

Standing Room
Standing Room tickets, priced at $12, go on sale at 11 a.m. the day of a performance.

Rush Seats
Rush seats, starting at $25, go on sale at 11 a.m. on the morning of each performance at the Four Seasons Centre Box Office, subject to availability.

About the Canadian Opera Company

Based in Toronto, the Canadian Opera Company is the largest producer of opera in Canada and one of the five largest in North America. The COC enjoys a loyal audience support-base and one of the highest attendance and subscription rates in North America. The COC celebrates its 63rd anniversary during the 12/13 season. Under its leadership team of General Director Alexander Neef and Music Director Johannes Debus, the COC is increasingly capturing the opera world’s attention. The COC maintains its international reputation for artistic excellence and creative innovation by creating new productions within its diverse repertoire, collaborating with leading opera companies and festivals, and attracting the world’s foremost Canadian and international artists. The COC performs in its own opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, hailed internationally as one of the finest in the world. Designed by Diamond and Schmitt Architects, the Four Seasons Centre opened in 2006, and is also the performance venue for The National Ballet of Canada. For more information on the Canadian Opera Company, please visit its award-winning website, coc.ca.

Canadian Opera Company Website

The Canadian Opera Company’s award-winning website, coc.ca, contains information on all productions and programs and includes video interviews with members of the creative team, as well as many other fun, informative and interactive features. Visitors to coc.ca can access COC Radio, which features a variety of audio and digital features available for downloading and streaming, all aimed at exploring an opera and its background as well as the artists appearing with the COC.

Alexander Neef’s Blog

COC Radio

Canadian Opera Company Website

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.


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


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”