Giuseppe Verdi’s ninth opera, Attila, finally makes its Metropolitan Opera debut after 164 long years. First performed in 1846 at La Fenice theater in Venice, this classic has been rarely performed throughout the ages. Leading this jewel of a masterpiece in his long-awaited debut was Maestro Riccardo Muti. Truly, this was two grand events to take stock of and lots of hype and fanfare rightfully accompanied the production.
The Met has been billing Attila as the only title role Verdi ever wrote for a bass. However, if someone had done their homework, they would have discovered the master’s first opera and his first title bass role – Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio – premiered in 1839. This was just the first of many slight miscalculations to occur with this particular production.
Attila conquers Rome. The Roman Captain, Ezio, pairing with Attila, says that he can have the universe, but let him have Italy – a relatively rousing patriotic line at the time the opera premiered. Odabella stands up to the voracious Hun and he is immediately attracted to her, of course. He offers her marriage, never guessing that she is plotting with everyone else on stage to kill him. She foils Foresto, her lover, in his plot to poison Attila. She wants to have the vengeance all to herself since Attila murdered her father. In the end, Attila meets his demise at Odabella’s hand with the sword that he gave her. Why he didn’t see that coming is a mystery to everyone. Not a complicated story, but, paired with the inspiring – rather stimulating – music of Verdi, it makes one heck of a performance when it’s done right.
Taking on the title character, Ildar Abdrazakov was unsteady and barely audible. He sang with little presence in his voice choosing to use a “woofy bass” quality that actually sounds more like a teddy bear than an almighty conqueror striking fear into the hearts of all who hear him. His acting was limited and rather flat. In a rather comical death that was staged horribly, he died with a plastic sword – finally.