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Verdi: Attila / Catana, Cremonini, Branchini, Battistoni, Teatro Regio Di Parma [blu-ray]

Verdi / Parodi / Catana / Branchini / Battistoni
Release Date: 11/13/2012 
Label:  C Major   Catalog #: 721704  
Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Cristiano CremoniniSusanna BranchiniGiovanni Battista ParodiSebastian Catana,   ... 
Conductor:  Andrea Battistoni
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Parma Teatro Regio OrchestraParma Teatro Regio Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
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Blu-ray Video:  $34.99
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Note: This Blu-ray Disc is only playable on Blu-ray Disc players and not compatible with standard DVD players.

Also available on standard DVD

Giuseppe Verdi
(Blu-ray Disc Version)

Attila – Giovanni Battista Parodi
Ezio – Sebastian Catana
Odabella – Susanna Branchini
Foresto – Roberto de Biasio
Aldino – Cristiano Cremonini
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
Read more designer
Bruno Ciulli, lighting designer

Recorded live from the Teatro Verdi di Busseto, 2010

- Introduction to Attila

Picture format: 1080i High Definition
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 Discs: 1 (BD 50)

R E V I E W: 3652600.az_VERDI_Attila_Andrea_Battistoni.html

VERDI Attila Andrea Battistoni, cond; Giovanni Battista Parodi (Attila); Sebastian Catana (Ezio); Susanna Branchini (Odabella); Roberto De Biasio (Foresto); Cristiano Cremonini (Uldino); Zyian Atfeh (Leone); Teatro Regio di Parma O & Ch C MAJOR 721608 (DVD); 721704 (Blu-ray) (118:00 + 10:00) Live: Busseto 10/2010

A life of looting and pillaging may hold certain attractions, but after ravaging the countryside for long enough most of the inhabitants are driven off and there is no one left to grow new crops and raise new livestock. In the days of yore invading armies lived off the land, be they Romans, or Macedonians, or Huns and Visigoths, and without supplies for men and horses they could not sustain themselves. Such were the conditions in most of Northern Italy when the opera Attila opens. Attila and his barbaric tribes had already sacked and razed the substantial northern city of Aquileia in 452 A.D. and driven many of its surviving inhabitants into the nearby marshes (thereby creating the conditions for the founding of Venice). The victorious Hun leader then turned his sights on the much richer plum of a not yet totally defenseless Rome, as in the opera, and held parlays with several Roman envoys seeking desperately to broker peace, including Leo I, Bishop of Rome. In Verdi’s opera Attila’s forces are then turned upon in a sneak attack of Roman legions in consort with a group of surviving fighters from Aquileia. Attila himself is slain by the warrior Princess Odabella (also from Aquileia) whom he is about to wed, in revenge for the slaying of her own father. In actuality, the wily old Hun leader recognized there was simply not enough food available in the surrounding countryside to sustain an attack on Rome and took his forces safely back home to Germany. He died a year later, reportedly from overeating or overdrinking at a wedding feast. The city of Rome wasn’t spared for long, it was sacked and burned by other Germanic tribes just two years later.

One of the problems with this early Verdi opera is there is no one to like. The so-called good guys are all busy plotting with each other and doing underhanded things. Odabella makes nice to Attila in order to further her lust for revenge and actually prevents him from being poisoned at a celebration in his camp so she can do the dirty deed herself. Her boyfriend Foresto, leader of the remaining Aquileia forces, spends most of the three acts moaning about Odabella’s unfaithfulness (not true). He plots with the Roman general Ezio to set upon Attila’s forces even though their own men have been granted safe passage by the Huns. Ezio, with the only opposing professional soldiers in the area, first tries to cut a political deal with Attila to divvy up the territory, and with that rejected, schemes with Foresto to first poison Attila and then betray his honorable truce. So, who do we root for, Attila, the scourge of God on earth? Poor Hun, everyone’s out to get him. The opera itself hangs precariously off the edge of the standard repertoire, trotted out now and then because it has such a juicy role for a star basso. This particular production is a part of the “Tutto Verdi” project sponsored by the Regio di Parma Foundation in conjunction with C Major to perform all of Verdi’s operas and record them on Blu-ray disc.

The opera house and stage in Busseto are both very small. Stage Director Pierfrancesco Maestrini must find creative ways to use the small space to advantage. He generally does very well, foregoing heavy stage scenery for a few light props and appropriate videos on the rear backdrop that set the scene then freeze-frame as the action begins on stage. It helps that there are only four principal singers who can be grouped in tight tableaus, but things get a bit crowded when the chorus of Huns or refugees from Aquileia are called upon. Attila descends from on high on a platform surrounded by skulls in the Prologue and departs dead on the same platform to end act III. Costumes are a bit campy, perhaps fantasy Hun: animal skull headpieces, fierce face paint, and plenty of robes and animal skins. The Roman soldiers appear vaguely military, but not like Roman soldiers from the classic movies of the ’50s and ’60s, Ben Hur, Cleopatra, etc. Odabella, ostensibly a warrior, looks rather sexy in her outfit but she couldn’t possibly have been fighting in it. The Huns and Visigoths seem a pretty tame bunch for pillagers and rapists. Performances are a mixed bag here. Giovanni Batista Parodi provides a good bass voice and much fine singing in the lead role, but lacks the stage presence, gravitas, and acting skills to really bring off the critical role of Attila. Soprano Susanna Branchini brings a big voice into the small house and frankly, everything she sings sounds double forte. She also has trouble modulating in her top range, approaching shriek level to hit some of the notes. She sings much better in lower registers and she handles the young Verdi’s ornamentation quite competently. The Foresto of Italian tenor Roberto De Biasio and the Ezio of baritone Sebastian Catana are both very well sung and prove to be highlights of this set. It is hard to believe the Teatro Regio Orchestra from Parma can stuff enough bodies in that small orchestra pit to produce such a full sound, but they somehow manage to do it quite well under the leadership of conductor Andrea Battistoni. The smallish chorus sounds good too.

Competing sets of this opera on video include a 1985 production from the Arena di Verona which I have not seen and a 1991 live production from La Scala in Milan that I have. The La Scala set features Samuel Ramey in the lead role when he was still singing well and the Odabella of Cheryl Studer in the midst of her very few peak seasons. Both are superior in their roles to the two on this C Major disc, Ramey bringing a major stage presence and gravity to the role of Attila that makes you really believe he is a grade-A scourge. The two Busseto singers get the nod over Giorgio Zancanaro as Ezio and Kaludi Kaludov as Foresto at La Scala, but the larger house in Milan has one of Italy’s finest orchestras and choruses. Sets and costumes are quite traditional at La Scala as well. The Blu-ray hi-def video and audio is a definite plus for this C Major production, but I would give the slight edge overall to La Scala, just for Ramey’s menacing presence and fine acting. This C Major set also provides a quite fine portrayal of Verdi’s opera and you won’t go wrong with either choice. Recommended.

FANFARE: Bill White   
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Works on This Recording

Attila by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Cristiano Cremonini (Tenor), Susanna Branchini (Soprano), Giovanni Battista Parodi (Baritone),
Sebastian Catana (Baritone), Roberto De Biasio (Tenor)
Conductor:  Andrea Battistoni
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Parma Teatro Regio Orchestra,  Parma Teatro Regio Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1846; Italy 

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