I/9

Attila

Dramma lirico in a prologue and three acts by
TEMISTOCLE SOLERA
completed by FRANCESCO MARIA PIAVE

First performance:
Venice, Teatro La Fenice, 17 March 1846

Critical Edition by
HELEN GREENWALD

The University of Chicago Press 2010

CHARACTERS:
ATTILA, King of the Huns, bass
EZIO, Roman general, baritone
ODABELLA, daughter of the lord of Aquileia, soprano
FORESTO, a knight of Aquileia, tenor
ULDINO, a young Breton, Attila's slave, tenor
LEONE, an old Roman, bass

Mixed chorus of 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 maidens and children, hermits, slaves.

The Setting during the Prologue is in Aquileia and in the Adriatic lagoons; in the remaining three acts it is near Rome.
The time period is the middle of the fifth century.

Instrumentation: Piccolo, Flute, 2 Oboes / English horn, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 4 Horns, 4 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, Cimbasso, Harp, Timpani, Bass drum [and Cymbals], Snare drum, Strings
Offstage: 6 Trumpets, Bell, Thunder Sheet

Performance time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Attila, Verdi's ninth opera, had its premiere at Venice's Teatro La Fenice in March 1846 and soon became one of his most popular and oft-staged works. Although it later fell out of the repertory, more recently it has been revived with great success. One of Attila's strongest supporters today is the noted conductor Riccardo Muti, at whose request the musical proofs of the critical edition were prepared in time for his "debut" at New York's Metropolitan Opera in February and March 2010. These performances have been received with great acclaim and glowing reviews. (Read a review of this production.)

Verdi himself chose the German play Attila, King of the Huns by Zacharias Werner as the basis for the libretto, entrusting it to Temistocle Solera. Solera worked on the text in his usual manner, providing for plenty of grand choral tableaux, as he had for Verdi's Giovanna d'Arco and Nabucco. But progress halted when the composer became ill and Solera moved permanently to Madrid, leaving the last act only as a sketch. Calling on Francesco Maria Piave, librettist of two of his earlier works, to complete the text, Verdi instructed him to ignore Solera's plans for a large choral finale and concentrate on the protagonists.
The action of Attila had special resonance for Italian audiences in 1846, when the movement for unification was heating up. This opera about fifth-century Roman patriots saving the empire from the invading Huns became a strong patriotic symbol of the uprising against the Austrians. Among the Romans it features Odabella (soprano), leader of a group of female warriors, whose vocal part is dazzling and difficult; Ezio (baritone), her father and a Roman general attempting to stave off the Huns' attacks; and Foresto (tenor), a knight and her lover. The part of the Hun king Attila has been a favorite one for modern basses. If the libretto lacks credibility, Verdi's music irresistably carries the plot forward. The composer's inimitable vitality, soaring arcs of melody, grand choruses, and above all passion are amply apparent in Attila. The opera's massive patriotic crowd scenes and grand ensemble movements, which inspired Verdi to redefine and hone his dramatic language, are a particularly successful feature.

The critical edition is based on Verdi's autograph full score preserved at the British Library. It restores the opera's original text and accurately reflects the composer's colorful and elaborate musical setting. The appendix contains two alternate romanzas that Verdi wrote for Foresto. Editor Greenwald's introduction discusses the opera's origins, sources, and performance questions. The critical commentary details editorial problems and solutions.

For essays discussing various aspects of the libretto and the opera, see "An Attila Symposium: convened and co-edited by Helen Greenwald," Cambridge Opera Journal (2009) 21: 237-89

 

Back to Start | Back to Verdi menu | Back to Available titles