MILAN – The debut of La Scala's Friday production of a new production of Verdi's "Attila" takes up the contemporary themes of male leaders selling their interests to personal interests, while the latest act of heroism amounts to a wife.
"Not even a Bronx rapper is as contemporary as Verdi," production director Davide Livermore said.
The timing of the creation of "Attila" – in a context of global insecurity and women's empowerment through the # MeToo movement and mid-term elections in the United States – is a coincidence.
"Attila" was chosen several years ago by music director Riccardo Chailly to be the second in a trilogy dedicated to Verdi's early works, starting with "Giovanna of Arco", which opened the 2015-16 season, and "Macbeth", which has yet to be announced. Chailly conducts opera, his fifth creation in 40 years at La Scala.
In the prologue, Attila, sung by the Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov, reproaches the Roman general Ezio for betraying his people by proposing to offer the invaders the Eastern and Western empires in exchange for the Italian peninsula.
Abdrazakov rides on horseback, adding a play but provoking protests from animal rights activists. Livermore stated that the animals in the production are professionally trained and that all appropriate procedures are followed.
The confrontation between Attila and Ezio has a political message that resonates today. "Attila teaches Ezio a lesson in morality. He says, "You do not sell a country for your own account," Livermore said.
At that time, Livermore had originally envisioned the collapse of a bridge in the background, symbol of ruin, but after the collapse of the Genoa Bridge, which cost life to 43 people earlier this year he changed the staging. Now the bridge is torn, leaving empty space.
Spanish soprano Saioa Hernandez debuts at La Scala and interprets the role of Odabella, who seeks to avenge the death of her father, the ruler of Aquileia, by killing Attila.
Abdrazakov, who sings for the third time in his season at La Scala, said his dream was still to sing "Attila" at Milan's famous opera.
"In the early 90s, when I had no interest in opera or classical music, I saw a video of Attila at La Scala. I do not know what happened, but the next day I went to see my teacher and told him that I wanted to study opera, "he said.
The 7 December Gala is one of the highlights of the European cultural calendar. This year, President Sergio Mattarella plans to attend his first season. None of the populist political leaders of Italy are expected.
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