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S & H Opera Review

VERDI Attila Royal Opera House, Covent Garden 11 a.m. Saturday 2 February 2002 (PGW)

Sung in Italian with English surtitles. Sponsored (1990) by The Friends of Covent Garden

"A youthful, rousing, barnstormer of a piece, Attila races through a plot that cheerfully rewrites history to terrific musical effect. There are hints of the dramatic richness which was about to flower in Verdi's next work, Macbeth - which is staged later this season - but what is really remarkable about this opera is its irresistible energy. The action is tied together by thundering orchestral writing, massive patriotic crowd scenes and a gutsy sense of good versus evil. The last of these is personified by Attila himself, the rampaging barbarian who nevertheless achieves a surprising nobility. Elijah Moshinsky's dynamic staging, designed by Michael Yeargan with Robert Bryan's colour-drenched lighting, makes a welcome return having spearheaded a major Verdi revival upon its first appearance in 1990.
Verdi expert Mark Elder conducts, with the title role shared by basses Orlin Anastassov and Paata Burchuladze. Anthony Michaels-Moore sings the defiant Ezio with Maria Guleghina scaling the heights of the avenging heroine Odabella whose lover, Foresto, is sung by Franco Farina."

Website reviewers do not at present feature on the Royal Opera House's general press list, even though ever increasingly many readers of the Nationals access opera reviews on the Internet, but Seen&Heard was invited to see Toshio Hosokawa's Vision of Lear at the ROH's Linbury Studio. An opportunity to preview Elijah Moshinsky's colourful production of Attila at its dress rehearsal the next morning was therefore welcome.

The Saturday morning audience, which completely filled the Opera House, was warned as usual that it was not a 'performance' and that singers might choose to 'mark' their parts. In the event, none appeared to do so before the assembled cognoscenti of The Friends of Covent Garden (who sponsored the original production) and no doubt the cast respected this knowledgeable audience and gave their best.

Whilst a formal review would not be in order, no offence should be caused by assuring visitors to Seen&Heard that this was an invigorating morning, a deserving revival of an excellent production free of eccentricity, and greatly enjoyed by a regular reviewer as seen (for once) from the centre-back of the Upper Amphitheatre (i.e. the Gallery or 'Gods', where one got to know the operas in student youth) and where sightlines are excellent, the sound is vivid, balanced and focused, the seats are comfortable with good knee-room, and everything comes together most satisfyingly.

This presentation, 12 years on, has been well prepared and exudes confidence, with a strong cast supported by Mark Elder's judicious and idiomatic conducting - not an authentic history lesson, but a Verdian drama in which all the elements are balanced to give pleasure and satisfaction.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Further Performances: 6 | 14 | 19 | 22 | February at 7.30pm
9 February at 1pm; 16 February at 7pm
Phone: +44 (0)20 7304 4000 Fax: +44 (0)20 7212 9460 or Online Booking

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