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13.9.11

Thrilling 'Attila' from WCO



See my review of Washington Concert Opera's performance of Verdi's Attila:

Excellent “Attila” at Lisner Auditorium (The Washingtonian, September 12):

available at Amazon
Verdi, Attila, S. Ramey, C. Studer, N. Shicoff, La Scala, R. Muti
As previewed last week, Washington Concert Opera kicked off the opera season on Friday night with an outstanding concert performance of Verdi’s Attila. Like most early Verdi operas, the work has its dramatic and musical longueurs, but Attila already shows the composer’s finely honed sense of dramatic tension, with two particularly memorable entrances, for Attila and then for Odabella, in the first act. Even at this point in his career, Verdi was also striving to make Italian opera conventions, like always having a slow-paced aria (cavatina) followed by a fast-paced one (cabaletta), fit more convincingly into his opera’s dramatic structure. Certainly, when sung as well as it was in this performance, Attila can be an excellent night at the opera.

Bass-baritone John Relyea had the necessary snarl and vocal brawn for the title role, menacing but also showing greater range and variety in the dream scene, for example. Top billing, however, goes to soprano Brenda Harris, who gave a gutsy, sharp-edged, virtuosic rendition of Odabella, one of Verdi’s more demanding roles. The composer wrote for a dramatic soprano with sizzling voltage on the top, brute strength, and agility in fast passages, all of which Harris had in spades as well as a regal stage presence. She also had the other side of the package, giving Odabella’s gloomy slow aria in Act I a tender quality, with intense control over a silky pianissimo tone and overall excellent intonation. This is a voice to be reckoned with, although her recent and upcoming stage appearances, somewhat surprisingly, are mostly with smaller American companies. [Continue reading]
SEE ALSO:
Anne Midgette, Washington Concert Opera scores with Verdi’s ‘Attila’ (Washington Post, September 12)

Emily Cary, Relyea adds Attila to his list of operatic villains (Washington Examiner, September 8)

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