RAMEY IN HIS SIGNATURE ROLE
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 02/04/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Let's be honest, 'Attila' is not out of Verdi's top drawer. It was one of the products of his 'galley years' before he broke through into a new language and a new form with 'Rigoletto' four years later. But it certainly has its moments, and when a basso the caliber of Samuel Ramey sings the title part, it's worth seeing and hearing. This performance is from the vaults of Italian television (RAI) and newly released, although there apparently has been an earlier release of this or a similar performance on another label. Virtually the same cast is in the CD set recorded at about the same time as this video of the 1991 La Scala production; the only principal that was different was Neil Shicoff as Foresto, sung here by a tenor unknown to me, Kaludi Kaludov. The stars of this production--which has only one named female role--are the two enemies, Attila and Ezio, a Roman general. And both roles here are taken by first-rate singers: Ramey, and Giorgio Zancanaro as Ezio. And each turns in a really fine performance. Ramey, of course, was known for this role, one he performed all over the world. With his trim figure, commanding stage presence (including a hunky bared chest--shades of Yul Brynner!--in Acts I & II) and huge bass voice, he made the role his own. We are fortunate to have this record of it.
The other two roles of importance--Odabella and Foresto--are not quite so fortunate. Cheryl Studer was not in particularly good voice for this performance. Her top was in fine condition, but once she got into her middle voice and particularly into her chest voice, she tended to fade out, and not because the orchestra covered her; the volume simply wasn't there. One could imagine that perhaps she was portraying the role as a 'gentlewoman' but indeed the role of Odabella is that of a warrior and gentleness has little place here. Her lover, Foresto, is taken by Kudalov who has a moderately attractive middle-sized voice that he handles rather woodenly, which fits his acting. But the singing of both Ramey and Zancanaro is thrilling throughout.
The staging is rather unimaginative, although the sets and costumes are really fairly impressive. Musically, of course, this IS Verdi, but before he got much beyond simple I-IV-V-I sequences. The most memorable melodies are those of Ezio's Act II 'Dagl'immortali vertici,' sung fabulously by Zancanaro, and Attila's Act I cavatina, 'Mentre gonfiarsi l'anima' and its following cabaletta. Much of the music otherwise is rather faceless. Thank goodness, at least there is no stage band as so often in Verdi's early operas!
The main reason to get this DVD is to see and preserve the most famous role of one of America's finest recent gifts to the world opera scene: Samuel Ramey as 'Attila.' It's worth it for that alone. He is spectacular.
'Scourge of God' unexpectedly sympathetic in Verdi's opera
Gerard Fagan | Dublin Ireland | 06/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Verdi's opera 'Attila' premiered on St Patrick's day 1846 receives a winning performance by Riccardo Muti's La Scala forces. Every time Muti undertakes the direction of a Verdi opera one can expect the earth to move and here expectations are far from disappointed.The score is very uneven where passages of genius join hands with passages of merely routine competency. It's hard to believe that 'Macbeth' (even in its 1847 version) would follow it. Nonetheless given an excellent cast the opera can excite, and an excellent cast is what this production gets. Samuel Ramey in the title part is a regal Attila more noble than the noblest of Romans. Giorgio Zancanaro as the Moesian traitor, (not Italian traitor as the commentators inaccurately describe him)Ezio leader of the Roman armies provides an external nobility to the character and conveys his cynicism and dillusionment in his Act II aria 'Dagli immortali vertici, a true Verdi baritone aria. Odabella as sung by Cheryl Studer sings with bite paricularly in her 'aria di sortita' but can provide bel canto where needed in the romanza'O nel fuggente nuvolo' and in 'Te sol quest'anima' the trio made famous by the Gigli/Rethberg/Pinza recording of the 78 era. Bulgarian Kaludi sings lyrically as Foresto, dramatically the least interesting character in the opera and Mario Luperi makes a good impact as Leone, the historical Pope Leo I. The opera was based on a tragedy by Hans Zacharias Werner which in its original form was more Wagnerian than Verdian. The librettist Solera transformed into the standard operatic fodder of the era.The opera cannot be said to be historically accurate. The sack of Aquileia which historically followed the scene where Leone drives Attila back from Rome ' Thou art appointed as a scourge against mortals only.Withdraw! this is the territory of the Gods.' precedes it in the opera. A scene of the foundation of Venice absent in Werner's play was inserted to please the Venetians in whose city the opera was premiered. In Act II Ezio describes the Western emperor Valentinian as a 'coronato fanciul' (crowned child)when the said Valentinian is in fact middle-aged, and though Moesian calls himself the 'last of the Romans' (l'ultimo Romano). Furthermore, the historical Attila died on his wedding day as in the opera but the true manner of his death was not such to be portrayed on the operatic stage in 1846. Let's just say he died in the exercise of his conjugal rights! The La Scala production captures the cruelty and political instability of the era even if the historical inaccuracies are compounded by placing Rome by the seaside. Inaccuracies aside the production is a feast to the eyes and ears.The La Scala chorus are exciting as always."
I like it!!
Operafilly | Fallbrook, Ca United States | 07/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have several Attilas but I like this one best. Studer really put out some venom which I hadn't seen or heard her do before and in very difficult singing. In Vespri she was conflicted......but not here. I first heard Ramey live in Mephistopheles probably 30 years ago. He was amazing. He's still pretty good here but not quite what he was. Still very impressive. Zancanaro also seems to be showing age a bit vocally......still I like him a lot. I like the staging too."
Beverly M. Thornton | 10/15/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I am not an Opera fanatic but do like Samuel Ramey. I will agree with the previous reviewer who said the sets lacked originality. Cheryl Studer has a super voice and Samuel Ramey conveyed his wonderful voice to a believable Attila."