Sat October 20, 2012
San Francisco Opera: Verdi's ATTILA, Oct. 20th at 1 pm
The ruler of the Huns fully intends to invade fifth-century Italy until a fierce female captive enchants him with her valiant defiance. In the popular imagination, Attila the Hun was a ruthless barbarian. But to Giuseppe Verdi, he was a far more complex and compelling figure: a brave, ambitious warrior tormented by fierce internal doubts. The intense, conflicted anti-hero comes vividly alive in this “vibrant and engrossing musical drama” (The New York Times).
Music Director Nicola Luisotti, a “superb Verdi conductor” (Sunday Times, London), leads a world-class cast featuring bass Ferruccio Furlanetto, whose "strong, dark, textured voice filled Verdi's lines with burnished sound and arching lyricism" (The New York Times), in the title role; exciting young Venezuelan soprano Lucrecia Garcia and “brilliant…magnificent” baritone Quinn Kelsey (San Francisco Chronicle). Legendary bass Samuel Ramey returns as Pope Leo I. Saturday, October 20th, 1 to 4 pm.
Attila: Ferruccio Furlanetto
Odabella: Lucrecia Garcia
Foresto: Diego Torre
Ezio: Quinn Kelsey
Uldino: Nathaniel Peake
Pope Leo I: Samuel Ramey
Conductor: Nicola Luisotti
The Huns await the arrival of their chief amid the smoldering ruins of Aquileia. They prostrate themselves and hail him as the god of war when he, Attila, enters. Uldino, Attila's Breton slave, ushers in a group of Aquileian women. Attila is angry that his orders to spare none of the enemy have been disobeyed. Uldino replies that the women are a worthy tribute because of the valor with which they defended their brothers. Amazed, Attila wonders aloud at the source of this courage. Odabella, the daughter of the slain Lord of Aquileia, steps out of the group of captives and answers his question: “The infinite holy love of our country.” She continues to speak, contrasting the heroism of the Italian women who fought beside their men with the weeping of the barbarian women who sat out the battle in their carriages. Attila, impressed by her bravery, offers to grant her any favor she desires. Odabella asks him to give her back her sword. He gives her his own. Odabella resolves to use her oppressor's own sword to avenge her father and her country. Unfamiliar feelings of tenderness arise in Attila for this courageous woman. The women leave. Attila receives the Roman envoy, Ezio, who asks to speak to him in private. Attila orders the others to leave. Ezio proposes an alliance: Attila may have the world, but let Italy be Ezio's. Attila denounces him as a traitor and promises to destroy all Roman cities. Ezio defiantly pledges to pit the seasoned soldiers of Rome against the undisciplined rabble of Attila's army.
The religious hermits gather to give thanks to God for preserving them from the storm that had raged the night before. Foresto, Odabella's betrothed, has led the Aquileians who have escaped Attila's fury to this spot. He sees in the hermits’ altar with its cross a propitious omen. He orders his followers to build their huts here and establish a city that will rise to equal the one they have left. (An apocryphal account of the founding of Venice.) The people acclaim him as their leader, but Foresto is tortured by the loss of his Odabella and the uncertainty of her fate.
Odabella walks alone in a secluded ruin near Atilla’s camp. She grieves for her father and for Foresto, whom the fortunes of war have taken from her. She hears footsteps and suddenly Foresto stands before her. Her joy at seeing him again quickly turns to bewilderment when she perceives his anger. He reproaches her for abandoning her people and accepting the favors of their oppressor. She shows him Attila's sword and tells him of her intent to exact personal vengeance from Attila, like a biblical Judith. The reconciled lovers embrace.
In his camp, Attila awakens from a nightmare, which he recounts to Uldino. In the dream he had brought his armies before Rome, where an immense old man suddenly seized him by the hair and told him to turn back. His role as the scourge of mankind ended at Rome, the realm of the gods. Shamed by his momentary fear, Attila orders Uldino to summon his commanders to prepare for an immediate assault upon Rome. As he addresses his officers, a religious hymn sung by distant voices is heard. A procession of women and children dressed in white approaches Attila's camp, led by Pope Leo I. Amid the crowd of Attila's troops are Foresto and Odabella. Attila, gradually becoming filled with superstitious dread, recognizes in the Pope the old man of his dream. Leo then pronounces the same words Attila heard in his dream. Attila raises his eyes to heaven and cries out that he sees two giants menacing him with flaming swords. He prostrates himself before Leo.
In his headquarters near Rome, Ezio reads his orders from Emperor Valentinian: there is a truce with the Huns. As a soldier, he resents being prevented from destroying his enemy; as a Roman, he laments the lost grandeur of Rome's military strength. Roman soldiers accompany a party of Attila's slaves into Ezio's presence. They convey to him Attila's greetings and invite Ezio and his captains to a feast at Attila's camp. Ezio replies that he will come. The slaves leave except for one who remains behind—Foresto. Refusing to divulge his name, Foresto asks Ezio to aid their common cause. That night Foresto will kill Attila and light a fire as a signal to Ezio to attack the leaderless Huns. Ezio promises to watch for the signal and to act. Foresto hurries away, leaving Ezio to meditate on his fate.
The feast is in progress in Attila's camp. The King of the Huns takes his place, surrounded by his followers. Odabella stands near him. A fanfare announces the arrival of Ezio and his men. Attila welcomes his guests and invites them to seal their truce. Some Druids whisper to Attila that it will be fatal to dine with the foreigner. Attila dismisses their prophecies of doom. As the women are singing, a sudden gust of wind extinguishes most of the fires that illuminate the feast. During the ensuing confusion, Ezio reminds Attila of his offer of an alliance, which Attila again refuses. Foresto informs Odabella that Uldino will soon offer Attila a poisoned cup. Odabella is reluctant to accept vengeance from any hand but her own. Uldino strengthens his resolve to end the servitude of his people. Suddenly the sky clears and Attila orders the fires relit and calls for his cup. As Uldino offers it, Odabella rushes forward and warns Attila that it has been poisoned. Attila furiously demands to know who is responsible and Foresto admits his guilt. Odabella again intervenes, asking Attila to place Foresto's fate in her hands. Attila is pleased by her action and grants her request. For her loyalty he announces yet a greater reward: the next day he will marry her and make her his queen. He tells Ezio to return to Rome and announce that the truce is ended. The crowd roars its approval of renewed warfare as Odabella urges Foresto to flee, Foresto curses Odabella for her treachery, Ezio swears to destroy his enemy, and Uldino promises Foresto eternal loyalty for saving his life.
Early the next morning, at the ruin which separates the camps of Ezio and Attila, Foresto waits for Uldino to learn the hour of the hated wedding. Uldino arrives with the news that the ceremonies have begun. Foresto orders him to deliver the signal to attack to Ezio and his troops. Alone, Foresto tries to understand Odabella's inexplicable behavior. Ezio rushes in, eager for the Signal to launch the attack. As he expresses his impatience to Foresto, they hear the wedding hymn beginning in Attila's camp. Odabella, in flight from the wedding ceremonies, runs up to them. Moments later Attila arrives and confronts her. As reproaches and threats are exchanged, the sounds of the Roman attack on Attila's camp reach them. Foresto is about to kill Attila, but Odabella intervenes and stabs Attila with her own hand. Roman soldiers burst in from all sides proclaiming that God, the people, and the emperor are avenged.