In the opening moments of the rarely performed Attila, the overture engulfs the Metropolitan Opera with Verdi’s ominous symphonic clouds, but those fast tempests are overshadowed as the curtain comes up on the production’s two stories of stony collapsed ruins. Think crushed Stonehenge.
Everything about this opera is big, even if it is musically minor Verdi, its nationalist themes of protecting Italian soil made it a populous hit in 1846.
Championing Attila’s restoration for its debut at the Met is Riccardo Muti, also just making his debut on the podium. Maestrodiva hair as silky as ever.
Muti’s hand is clearly felt in the dimensional sound, the punctuation in the orchestral gallops and the stillness in the fades. Marco Armiliato, who conducted Monday night, shows again (as he did with Il Trittico) how he can project solo sections and filagree a wall of sound out into the expanse of the house.
The Huns will not be lunching at the Coliseum today, madam, and this is a story of a strident and somewhat dense conqueror. There is some deadly leather accoutrements by Dolce, with Attila’s chrome feathered headress stabbing out of the ruins, with no hint of decamp.
Attila and his Huns are leaving a path of destruction as he cuts his way west, but God is on the side of the Romans, so the conquerer has to cut a deal with his enemies. All along he is being set up by Odabella, who seduces him so she can avenge her father’s death. Her lover Foresto doesn’t know her scheme, so feels betrayed himself and launches a plot of his own. The story drags on but basically, suffering mobs or not, becomes a love triangle of raging jealous arias.
When it is time for a set change, they don’t mess around. What could be more impressive than the ruins? It’s opposite- a towering crystalis forest topiary. Breathtaking stagecraft.