Notes and Editorial Reviews
Also available on Blu-ray
Based on a Romantic tragedy by Zacharias Werner, Attila is set in the 5th century AD. The opera takes as its starting point Attila’s plans to storm Rome with his army of Huns and the Roman’s attempts to prevent him. As with Nabucco and I Lombardi, Verdi spiced up the action with a number of patriotic choruses, guaranteeing that – against the background of the Italian movement for unification – the opera was a great success.
Attila – Giovanni Battista Parodi
Ezio – Sebastian Catana
Odabella – Susanna Branchini
Foresto – Roberto de Biasio
Leone – Zyian Atfeh
Parma Teatro Regio Chorus and Orchestra
(chorus master: Martino Faggiani)
Andrea Battistoni, conductor
Pier Francesco Maestrini, stage director
Carlo Salvi, set and costume designer
Bruno Ciulli, lighting designer
Recorded live from the Teatro Verdi di Busseto, 2010
- Introduction to Attila
Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Japanese
Booklet notes: English, French, German
Running time: 118 mins (opera) + 10 mins (bonus)
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)
R E V I E W:
Andrea Battistoni, cond; Giovanni Battista Parodi (
); Sebastian Catana (
); Susanna Branchini (
); Roberto De Biasio (
); Cristiano Cremonini (
); Zyian Atfeh (
); Teatro Regio di Parma O & Ch
C MAJOR 721608 (DVD); 721704 (Blu-ray) (118:00 + 10:00) Live: Busseto 10/2010
(1846) was Verdi’s ninth opera, preceding
by almost exactly one year. It had a slow start, but became quite popular through the 1860s, after which interest in it began to diminish. Though not again a repertory piece, it has had a number of modern revivals and there are a number of recordings of it.
Its libretto is a bit confused, almost certainly because the writer of the first part, Temistocle Solera, departed for Spain before he had finished and Francesco Maria Piave was recruited to finish it. Solera and Piave had almost opposing ideas of what an opera libretto was and so, what some have called the “oratorio” style of Solera ends in the more enclosed style of Piave. Its two principal characters, however, Attila and Odabella, his captive, wife, and assassin, are drawn with some force.
Briefly, the Huns arrive at the gates of Rome and Odabella, whose father the Huns have killed, is brought in and announces how brave she is and Attila, impressed, strikes off her chains and gives her his sword. The Roman general Ezio arrives and offers Attila the entire empire if he will just leave Rome alone. Attila refuses and we meet Foresto, who is leading a band of refugees from the Huns. This is the easy part, and it’s all in the prologue. After framing the situation and the characters, we might expect that there would be a series of actions which might cause something to happen. What we get is a series of arias and duets, with occasional choral support, in which the principals either talk about what they are going to do or bemoan the fact that things have gone badly. This dramatic stasis is brought to an end only just before the final curtain, when Odabella kills Attila. That leaves the music.
This is good Verdi. If it doesn’t have the edge of, say,
, or the power of
, there are many good moments. Yet, one of the interesting things about it is that it is fairly even all the way through. Though each of the principals gets at least one big musical moment, there is none that overpowers the others, though Ezio’s lament over Rome comes close.
This production comes from the Teatro Verdi in Busseto, Verdi’s hometown. The theater was opened in 1868, but Verdi apparently never set foot in it. Though he gave money to finish its construction, he called it “small, indecent, and almost unusable.” Nonetheless, Toscanini conducted many of Verdi’s operas in it, and Riccardo Muti and Plácido Domingo have also led Verdi there. It has been thoroughly restored and is a shining jewel, with one huge drawback. It is absolutely tiny. Its main floor and three balconies can seat in total 300 people. How Franco Zeffirelli managed to put
into it in 2002, I cannot imagine.
imagine, the space constraints on the stage are considerable, and the director, Pierfrancesco Maestrini, has opted for one high-tech solution, a bare stage with a bit of a hump on one side and films projected onto the screen at the back. For some reason, though, Attila makes his first entrance descending from the flies on a platter. There is almost no space to move around much and the singers mostly just stand, or recline on the helpful hump. Maestrini has one bizarre convention in the arias with cabalettas, during which the singer rushes off the stage after the first verse only to rush on again for the second. Oddly, perhaps just because the director cannot do much on this stage, he is forced to let the singers be singers.
It sounds as if I did not like this production, but that is not the case, for the singing is well done. If this is a sample of the current state of singing in provincial Italian opera houses, then opera in Italy is in good shape, indeed. Susanna Branchini is a fine and spirited Odabella and she always gets the fires going (and she has a lot of fires to keep going, which may be why she and not Attila is on the cover). The Attila of Giovanni Battista Parodi is good without being particularly exciting. Ezio has almost nothing to do, but his aria, “Dagl’immortali vertici,” is a fine one and Sebastian Catana was generously applauded. The conductor, Andrea Battistoni, kept the small orchestra moving along, though I wished there could have been a bit more energy now and then. All of this said, there was an evenness about this production that I appreciated.
This DVD is one part of a project called “Tutto Verdi,” apparently centered in Parma, to publish visual recordings of all of Verdi’s operas by the end of this (Verdi) year. It is of at least passing interest, therefore, to ask how many operas Verdi actually wrote. The surveys by Roger Parker and Julian Budden insist there are 28: The “Tutto Verdi” project asserts there are only 26. The disagreement comes over the status of
, which Verdi reworked as
, his reworking for Paris of
. The project has apparently decided not to include
(for both of which ArkivMusic tells me there is a DVD). As near as I can tell, of the 26, four have previously been reviewed here (
, James Miller, 29:6;
, Raymond Tuttle, 31:2;
, James A. Altena, 34:1; and
, Bill White, 35:6).
As I write, there are two other DVDs of
available, under Santi (Kultur) and Muti (Opus Arte), and one coming, under Sangiorgi (Dynamic). I have seen none of these. Of the CD versions, I rather like that under Muti (EMI), where Samuel Ramey brings Attila into his own. (NB: This is not the same performance as in Muti’s DVD.)
FANFARE: Alan Swanson
Works on This Recording
Attila by Giuseppe Verdi
Cristiano Cremonini (Tenor),
Susanna Branchini (Soprano),
Giovanni Battista Parodi (Baritone),
Sebastian Catana (Baritone),
Roberto De Biasio (Tenor)
Parma Teatro Regio Orchestra,
Parma Teatro Regio Chorus
Written: 1846; Italy
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