Verdi’s Attila opens the GöteborgsOperan season with a bang

SwedenSweden  Verdi, Attila : Soloists, GöteborgsOperan’s Chorus and Orchestra, Giancarlo Andretta (conductor), GöteborgsOperan main stage, Gothenburg, Sweden, 21.8.2011 (NS)


Attila – Anders Lorentzson
Ezio – Jesper Taube
Odabella – Francesca Patanè
Foresto – Tomas Lind
Uldino – Henrik Andersson
Leone – Marco Stella

Conductor: Giancarlo Andretta

Last year the Gothenburg Opera (GöteborgsOperan) opened its season with two concert performances of Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri. This year it was the turn of Verdi’s rarely performed opera Attila. Both operas were conducted by the Gothenburg Opera’s principal guest conductor Giancarlo Andretta, who has also previously conducted La Cenerentola (2003), Macbeth (2008) and Lucia di Lammermoor (2011) there. Mr Andretta’s conducting was spirited and idiomatic, bringing out the drama of Verdi’s score.

Attila was written during Verdi’s “galley years” (in 1846, just before Macbeth) and is full of catchy rhythms and choral set-pieces. The Gothenburg Opera Orchestra lived up to its usual high standard and was on particularly good form under Mr Andretta’s baton. The chorus were clearly enjoying themselves and were very effective in the set-piece scenes, most of all in a terrific Act II. However, because the orchestra was on stage the chorus was rather recessed and when the male sections were singing on their own, they were sometimes overwhelmed by the orchestra.

The Gothenburg Opera assembled a strong cast of soloists, many of whom have a long association with the company. Anders Lorentzson is a stalwart of the company, employed by the Gothenburg Opera since 1994. His Attila was imperious and arrogant; vocally, Mr. Lorentzson had a strong bass that held its own in the opera’s many ensembles.

Odabella is a very demanding part and as such a difficult role to cast. In Francesca Patanè, the Gothenburg Opera had a very experienced singer who, with over 300 performances as Turandot under her belt, has the technical capabilities necessary. Ms. Patanè was a memorable Lady Macbeth in the Gothenburg Opera’s 2008 production, but sadly since then she has developed an unpleasant metallic resonance to her voice (reminiscent of Callas’ voice towards the end of her career). Along with that, a tendency to enter too low and slide up to her notes and unclear enunciation spoiled her singing for me. This was a shame, as her phrasing was expressive and her voice had a very good top, which rose above the ensemble and orchestra at the opera’s climaxes.

Foresto was sung by the company’s leading tenor, Tomas Lind, who has many successful Verdi roles under his belt, including the Duke of Mantua inRigoletto and the title role in Don Carlos ( see review). Mr Lind’s light and lyrical tenor was well suited to his part, which consists largely of bemoaning Odabella’s loss or apparent treachery. He wore his heart on his sleeve and quickly shook off signs of tiredness evident in the beginning of the performance. Henrik Andersson sang Uldino very well and was able to give a sense of his character despite his short part and the restrictions of a concert performance.

The best vocal performance of the night was Jesper Taube’s Ezio. He was in true heroic form from the start. Mr. Taube’s baritone is lyrical and rich with overtones, and he was able to act with his voice and give a vivid characterisation of Ezio, who is both a war hero and something of a loose cannon. His performance was all the more impressive since he was drafted in with barely a week’s notice to replace Marco Vratonga in the part.

Given the quality of this performance, I hope that opening the season with a concert production becomes a tradition at the Gothenburg Opera. While full staging is the ideal, the much lower fixed costs of concert performances enable the company to perform unjustly neglected works without taking large financial risks. Fingers crossed for another forgotten Verdi gem next year.

Niklas Smith