Powerful Attila in Monte Carlo
Powerful Attila in Monte Carlo
Review by Torkil Baden
Photos: L’Opéra royal de Wallonie, Liège and Torkil Baden
Attila, opera by Giuseppe Verdi
Text: Temistocle Solera, Venice 1846.
Opéra de Monte-Carlo April 22nd - 29th 2016
Coproduction with l’Opéra royal de Wallonie, Liège, Belgium
MONTE-CARLO/MONACO: The revival of this youthful work by Verdi in recent years has sacrificed a substantial part of the score. What is left is a series of fortissimo arias and choruses with a few softer contrasts. These are mostly carried by the chorus, in Monte Carlo with an enlarged crowd highly cultivated.
The arias of the lead singers are performed with utmost vocal power. Russian (Bashkarian) bass Ildar Abdrazakov has a solid international career, also in the title role of « Attila », and he portrays the wide range in his temper and vocal demands. The same goes for the italian Carmen Giannattasio as the female lead, full of seducing and avenging force, leading to tragedy of Attila, though sharp in voice in the highest range.
It is actual historic that the bride of Attila was the one that ended the days of the barbaric bridegroom (“- never trust a bride with a knife” !). It is also historic that Attila was 18 years old, but there are not many world basses around in that age – this Attila is 39. Another remarkable singer is Spanish tenor Andeka Gorrotxategi in the lover boy part, full of despair.
The acoustics of the small Monte Carlo opera house makes this concentrated version extra concentrated, and the vocal and instrumental sounds really rocks the hall in every corner.
The renewal of the art of opera does not come from directors who themselves have been singers. The celebrated Ruggero Raimondi has had a great career on stage, including the title role of « Attila » . He sung this part first time 25 years ago, and as a stage director he does what he has done before. So here we go back to the swords and spears from the year 452 when the barbaric ruler of the huns threatened Rome.
Some parts are performed concertlike frontally towards the audience, and even if it is of vocal power, it weakens the drama.
And when the drama is on, like the celebration of victory towards the end, it is more Sunday school than a barbaric orgy.
This opera of the 33 year old Verdi is a part of long term plan of Jean-Louis Grinda, director of the Monte-Carlo Opera. Two years ago he scheduled « Ernani », and rumors go that «Masnadieri» is next in another two years. This early-Verdi-project is in collaboration with Liège, Belgium, and italian Daniele Callegari is the musical director for the series and with great success.
The early works of the composer of 28 (!) operas shed a light of his development and growing maturity into the later highlights that we can see in every single season in every single opera house. The Grinda-project is a refreshing opening up of the treasures of the repertory.
The composer’s choice of the barbarian threat to Rome in antiquity is understandable in the political situation of the 1840’ies. The first words of Odabella, the female lead, on stage is about loving the fatherland (« Santo di patria indefinito amor”). Patriotism and longing for a more liberal and democratic society swept across Europe, and with Austria ruling the Italic north, a story of fighting an enemy was most welcome on Italian stages.
Swords and bombs
A lot has happened since Attila challenged the romans, and those who challenge our freedom with terrorism to-day are not the heirs of the huns in Hungary but certainly more towards the east. There has been several attempts to brush up the Attila-story by opera directors in later years, but Raimondi is not amongst them. Some would say unfortunately while another part of the audience like to stay in antiquity.
The question in both cases is whether the historic persons, having swords or bombs, touch us so that the drama of revenge, power and love means something to-day beyond the history book. This Monte Carlo-version impresses less by the human fates and more by the powerful orchestra and singers.
Attila : Ildar Abdrazakov
Odabella : Carmen Giannattasio
Ezio : George Paten
Foresto: Andeka Gorrotxategi
Musical director Daniele Callegari
Director : Ruggero Raimondi
Chorus master : Stefano Visconti
Désign : Daniel Bianco
Chorus of the Monte-Carlo Opera
Philharmonic Orchestra of Monte-Carlo
Attila in Monte Carlo runs until April 29th.