Music by Giuseppe Verdi

Libretto by Temistocle Solera

The ruler of the Huns fully intends to invade fifth-century Italy until a fierce female captive enchants him with her valiant defiance. In the popular imagination, Attila the Hun was a ruthless barbarian. But to Giuseppe Verdi, he was a far more complex and compelling figure: a brave, ambitious warrior tormented by fierce internal doubts. The intense, conflicted anti-hero comes vividly alive in this “vibrant and engrossing musical drama” (The New York Times).

Music Director Nicola Luisotti, a “superb Verdi conductor” (Sunday Times, London), leads a world-class cast featuring bass Ferruccio Furlanetto, whose "strong, dark, textured voice filled Verdi's lines with burnished sound and arching lyricism" (The New York Times), in the title role; exciting young Venezuelan soprano Lucrecia Garcia and “brilliant…magnificent” baritone Quinn Kelsey (San Francisco Chronicle). Legendary bass Samuel Ramey, whose “superb” performance (San Francisco Chronicle) in the title role of the Company's 2008 Boris Godunov won him critical praise, returns as Pope Leo I.

Sung in Italian with English supertitles
Approximate running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes including one intermission

New co-production with Teatro alla Scala 

Production photos: Cory Weaver

Audio credit: Audio excerpts are from the November 30, 1991 performance of Attila with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra conducted by Gabriele Ferro


Attila Ferruccio Furlanetto
Odabella Lucrecia Garcia *
Foresto Diego Torre *
Ezio Quinn Kelsey
Uldino Nathaniel Peake *
Pope Leo I Samuel Ramey

Production Credits

Conductor Nicola Luisotti
Director Gabriele Lavia
Set Designer Alessandro Camera
Costume Designer Andrea Viotti
Lighting Designer Christopher Maravich
Chorus Director Ian Robertson

* San Francisco Opera Debut


Scene I
The Huns await the arrival of their chief amid the smoldering ruins of Aquileia. They prostrate themselves and hail him as the god of war when he, Attila, enters. Uldino, Attila's Breton slave, ushers in a group of Aquileian women. Attila is angry that his orders to spare none of the enemy have been disobeyed. Uldino replies that the women are a worthy tribute because of the valor with which they defended their brothers. Amazed, Attila wonders aloud at the source of this courage. Odabella, the daughter of the slain Lord of Aquileia, steps out of the group of captives and answers his question: “The infinite holy love of our country.” She continues to speak, contrasting the heroism of the Italian women who fought beside their men with the weeping of the barbarian women who sat out the battle in their carriages. Attila, impressed by her bravery, offers to grant her any favor she desires. Odabella asks him to give her back her sword. He gives her his own. Odabella resolves to use her oppressor's own sword to avenge her father and her country. Unfamiliar feelings of tenderness arise in Attila for this courageous woman. The women leave. Attila receives the Roman envoy, Ezio, who asks to speak to him in private. Attila orders the others to leave. Ezio proposes an alliance: Attila may have the world, but let Italy be Ezio's. Attila denounces him as a traitor and promises to destroy all Roman cities. Ezio defiantly pledges to pit the seasoned soldiers of Rome against the undisciplined rabble of Attila's army.
Scene 2
The religious hermits gather to give thanks to God for preserving them from the storm that had raged the night before. Foresto, Odabella's betrothed, has led the Aquileians who have escaped Attila's fury to this spot. He sees in the hermits’ altar with its cross a propitious omen. He orders his followers to build their huts here and establish a city that will rise to equal the one they have left. (An apocryphal account of the founding of Venice.) The people acclaim him as their leader, but Foresto is tortured by the loss of his Odabella and the uncertainty of her fate.
Scene 3
Odabella walks alone in a secluded ruin near Atilla’s camp. She grieves for her father and for Foresto, whom the fortunes of war have taken from her. She hears footsteps and suddenly Foresto stands before her. Her joy at seeing him again quickly turns to bewilderment when she perceives his anger. He reproaches her for abandoning her people and accepting the favors of their oppressor. She shows him Attila's sword and tells him of her intent to exact personal vengeance from Attila, like a biblical Judith. The reconciled lovers embrace.
Scene 4
In his camp, Attila awakens from a nightmare, which he recounts to Uldino. In the dream he had brought his armies before Rome, where an immense old man suddenly seized him by the hair and told him to turn back. His role as the scourge of mankind ended at Rome, the realm of the gods. Shamed by his momentary fear, Attila orders Uldino to summon his com­manders to prepare for an immediate assault upon Rome. As he addresses his officers, a religious hymn sung by distant voices is heard. A procession of women and children dressed in white approaches Attila's camp, led by Pope Leo I. Amid the crowd of Attila's troops are Foresto and Odabella. Attila, gradually becoming filled with superstitious dread, recognizes in the Pope the old man of his dream. Leo then pronounces the same words Attila heard in his dream. Attila raises his eyes to heaven and cries out that he sees two giants menacing him with flaming swords. He prostrates himself before Leo.
Scene I
In his headquarters near Rome, Ezio reads his orders from Emperor Valentinian: there is a truce with the Huns. As a soldier, he resents being prevented from destroying his en­emy; as a Roman, he laments the lost grandeur of Rome's military strength. Roman soldiers accompany a party of Attila's slaves into Ezio's presence. They convey to him Attila's greet­ings and invite Ezio and his captains to a feast at Attila's camp. Ezio replies that he will come. The slaves leave except for one who remains behind—Foresto. Refusing to divulge his name, Foresto asks Ezio to aid their common cause. That night Foresto will kill Attila and light a fire as a signal to Ezio to attack the leaderless Huns. Ezio promises to watch for the signal and to act. Foresto hurries away, leaving Ezio to meditate on his fate.
Scene 2
The feast is in progress in Attila's camp. The King of the Huns takes his place, surrounded by his followers. Odabella stands near him. A fanfare announces the arrival of Ezio and his men. Attila welcomes his guests and invites them to seal their truce. Some Druids whisper to Attila that it will be fatal to dine with the foreigner. Attila dismisses their prophecies of doom. As the women are singing, a sudden gust of wind extinguishes most of the fires that illuminate the feast. During the ensuing confusion, Ezio reminds Attila of his offer of an alliance, which Attila again refuses. Foresto informs Odabella that Uldino will soon offer Attila a poisoned cup. Odabella is reluctant to accept vengeance from any hand but her own. Uldino strengthens his resolve to end the servitude of his people. Suddenly the sky clears and Attila orders the fires relit and calls for his cup. As Uldino offers it, Odabella rushes forward and warns Attila that it has been poisoned. Attila furiously demands to know who is responsible and Foresto admits his guilt. Odabella again intervenes, asking Attila to place Foresto's fate in her hands. Attila is pleased by her action and grants her request. For her loyalty he announces yet a greater reward: the next day he will marry her and make her his queen. He tells Ezio to return to Rome and announce that the truce is ended. The crowd roars its approval of renewed warfare as Odabella urges Foresto to flee, Foresto curses Odabella for her treachery, Ezio swears to destroy his enemy, and Uldino promises Foresto eternal loyalty for saving his life.
Scene 3
Early the next morning, at the ruin which separates the camps of Ezio and Attila, Foresto waits for Uldino to learn the hour of the hated wedding. Uldino arrives with the news that the ceremonies have begun. Foresto orders him to deliver the signal to attack to Ezio and his troops. Alone, Foresto tries to understand Odabella's inexplicable behavior. Ezio rushes in, eager for the Signal to launch the attack. As he expresses his impatience to Foresto, they hear the wedding hymn beginning in Attila's camp. Odabella, in flight from the wedding ceremo­nies, runs up to them. Moments later Attila arrives and con­fronts her. As reproaches and threats are exchanged, the sounds of the Roman attack on Attila's camp reach them. Foresto is about to kill Attila, but Odabella intervenes and stabs Attila with her own hand. Roman soldiers burst in from all sides proclaiming that God, the people, and the emperor are avenged.  

"Leave Italy for Me!"

William Berger

A look at the politics and patriotism in Verdi's Attila

Attila the Hun, followed by his barbarian hordes, trampling Italy and the Arts underfoot (1843–47)
by Ferdinand Victor Eugene Delacroix. This mural is in the Palais Bourbon's
Bibliothèque de l’Assemblée Nationale (Library of the National Assembly) in Paris.
Image courtesy Bridgeman Art Library

 Attila of 1846 is an exciting trove of operatic vigor and melody. It was championed early on by partisans of Italian nationalism and the movement for unification known as the Risorgimento, or the “resurgence” (of Italy as a unified nation). The opera was based very loosely on history: the invasion of Italy by Attila the Hun in the fifth century. This was the time of the fall of the Roman Empire and the founding of the city of Venice, and Verdi was consciously riding and contributing to the nascent patriotism of his contemporaries. Attila, along with many of Verdi’s other operas from this early phase of his career, was for many years rarely performed in Italy and less elsewhere, on the assumption that its initial popularity must have been based more on the heady atmosphere of the times than on its inherent value. For decades, critics typically advised modern audiences (presumably more sophisticated than Verdi’s Italian audiences) to avoid these early works in favor of Verdi’s later masterpieces. But Attila is thrilling on its own merits, and it is much more besides: it reveals much about Verdi’s art and thought. It is a political opera, but it’s not exclusively about Italian politics of 1846. Verdi’s genius is timeless, and the politics of 1846 are not as distant from our own concerns as we might wish. Some background about the historical events in the opera helps explain the excitement surrounding the Attila during its initial years, and why it remains vital today.

Since the fall of the Roman Empire, Italy had lain divided by internecine wars and foreign occupations. Other European powers fought over, occupied, and traded the various components of Italy for centuries. Austria increased its presence in Italy after the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, gaining the rich province of Lombardy and its capital city of Milan. That wasn’t big news: Lombardy had been Austrian before, and French, and Spanish. The galling scandal of the new order was the Austrian occupation of Venice, which had previously been independent for a millennium. The Venetian Republic was a major political, diplomatic, military, financial, and (of course) artistic powerhouse for much of that time. The issues of the Risorgimento could be most starkly laid out at that time in Venice, and it was for Venice that Verdi wrote Attila.

Once, before modern notions of nationalism, the Austrian presence in Italy was plausible. The Austrians, led by their Habsburg dynasty, held control of the Holy Roman Empire since the thirteenth century. This largely theoretical entity was founded by Charlemagne in the year 800, rising from the anarchy following the fall of the Roman Empire. The goal was a confederation of European states under one sovereign, fostering order and civilization. It was a powerful ideal that died hard: it echoes today in the almost-unmanageable European Union. It remained an elusive ideal for most of its 1,000 years, yet the fiction of a pan-European union persisted. For centuries the Emperors actually went to Rome (or planned to) to receive the crown from the pope, validating the first two words of the title. The Emperor was the Caesar, the “Kaiser.” Furthermore, his heir apparent held the bizarre title “King of the Romans.” So while all the Holy Roman Emperors since Charlemagne were essentially Germans, and most were Habsburgs, their legitimacy lay in being Caesars, heirs to the Roman Empire. The Emperors loaded their iconography with Roman-ness, Romanità: arches, columns, the Latin language for legal purposes, and other ancient accoutrements central to Habsburg imperialism. It’s not surprising that sovereigns looked back to ancient Rome to legitimize their authority: we still do today. American money abounds with symbols of Romanità: eagles, acanthus leaves, colonnaded state buildings… even the fasces (tied rods) found on dimes. The U.S. Capitol and San Francisco’s City Hall are capped with domes, symbols of the cohesion and authority of the Roman system. From ancient to modern times, political legitimacy in the West depended on a convincing display of Roman-ness. People today are less aware of the subtexts, yet the subtexts persist.


Map of the unification of Italy (1815–1870) by William Shepherd, 1911.
Historical Atlas, Henry Holt and Co.

By Verdi’s day, it was unclear who the genuine Romans were: Romanità was up for grabs. The Holy Roman Emperor Franz II declared himself Emperor Franz I of Austria in 1804, retiring the Holy Roman part in 1806. Napoleon was then busy rearranging Europe, and he had little use for ancient concepts of an empire bolstered by the pope. Napoleon named himself emperor (of the French), dragged the pope to Paris, and snatched the new imperial crown out of the pope’s hands to place on his own head. When Napoleon finally had a son and heir (by Marie Louise, Emperor Franz’s daughter), the boy was titled King of Rome—a gesture that simultaneously insulted both the pope and the Austrian Emperor.

In 1846, Franz’s son Ferdinand was Emperor of Austria, and for some he still embodied the Imperial ideal of a united Europe, even if “Holy” and “Roman” were gone from the title— millennia of tradition don’t vanish overnight. And he had an Italian wife. So having the Austrians in Lombardy and even Venice was not unthinkable. But there couldn’t have been a worse paragon than the sickly and mentally deficient Ferdinand. When he was told he couldn’t have apricot dumplings because they were out of season, he is said to have shouted “I’m the emperor and I want dumplings!” It was getting harder to discern the ancient legitimacy in the present reality.

Verdi and his librettist Temistocle Solera (who had provided Verdi librettos for Nabucco and other hits) enthusiastically set about adapting the play Attila, King of the Huns by the German Zacharias Werner to their needs. The female lead morphed into an Italian warrior princess. They retained a remarkable scene in which Pope (later Saint) Leo the Great halted Attila outside of Rome, and added others:  most significantly, one showing the founding of the city of Venice by refugees from the mainland. With a few deft shifts, the libretto became a new entity. Attila the Hun invades Italy and destroys everything. He kills the father of the warrior princess Odabella, and puts her beloved Foresto to flight (she thinks he’s dead). The crumbling Roman Empire still has one great general, Ezio, who knows Attila from their youth. He proposes to the Hun that they divide the world between them, so Ezio can keep Italy. Attila rejects this, and Ezio threatens war, reminding him of the stunning defeat he and his Romans delivered to Attila at Châlons-sur-Marne in Gaul a few years before. Meanwhile, Foresto rallies the refugees from Aquileia who are hiding in the marshes. They decide to rebuild their lives there, in the safety of the lagoon. Attila retreats when a saintly bishop tells him that God Himself forbids any further advance. Odabella and Foresto are reunited but she marries Attila, who admires her bravery. On the wedding night, she, Foresto, and Ezio kill Attila. Ravaged Italy will rise again.

The libretto has problems, especially for English-speaking critics. Frances Toye, who wrote an influential guide to Verdi’s works in the 1920’s, consolidated the viewpoint that this and other operas of this period were immature works of emotion and raw patriotism. This Darwinian view negates the great value in these early works. But there are other issues: Attila is in many ways the most admirable character in the opera— bloodthirsty, but honest and consistent. He is imbued with an admirable sense of chivalry (which Toye cited, not unreasonably, as a historical anachronism). Odabella’s actions are difficult to fathom, and Ezio is a double-dealing scoundrel. What logical conclusion could a modern critic draw, except that Verdi’s enthusiastic premiere audiences were caught up in the nationalistic excitement in the opera?

There is much more to appreciate in Attila, but one must take an appropriately Verdian mindset to it. The characters, anachronistic though they may be, derive from history, and their journey to the stage provides insight. Attila was said to have been murdered by his wife on their wedding night (others say he died from overindulging in the wedding feast). Furthermore, for all his brutality, he is remembered as a founder of the nation by the Huns’ descendants, the Hungarians, whose capital city still has several streets named in his honor. The Austrian Emperor in 1846 was also King of Hungary. Writing an opera for Venice about the confrontation of the barbaric (albeit chivalric) Huns confronting the civilized (albeit enfeebled) Roman Empire robs the Habsburgs of powerful legitimizing (Roman) symbolism. It reshuffles who the real Romans are, and says that while the Austrians may have the military advantage (the Might), the Italians have the authentic claim to the area (the Right). Having Pope Saint Leo the Great appear on the operatic stage (changing the name to appease the censor fooled nobody) telling the Hun to leave Italy undercuts the divine right of the Habsburgs. And while Ezio may be unsavory, he delivers some zingers. When he speaks disparagingly about the Emperor of the East, he calls him “tremulo,” (“shaking”). The snide reference to the audience’s own shaking, drooling emperor was obvious. Ezio, too, derives from history: Flavius Aëtius (396–454), the last great military commander of the Roman Empire, spent time as a hostage in the court of the Huns, and did know Attila. He became an important general in Gaul, defeated the Burgundians under King Gunther, and called on his sometime allies the Huns to destroy the Burgundians. They did, and some chronicles claim that 20,000 Burgundians were slaughtered. He also won the last great victory of the Roman Empire at Châlons-sur-Marne, this time against his former ally Attila (as he mentions in the opera). He may not have been the scoundrel we see in the opera, but he could practice some hardcore realpolitik. He was an authentic Roman of his times.

Our first production of Attila in 1991 featured Samuel Ramey (left) in the title role
and the late Elizabeth Connell (right) as Odabella.
Photo by Marty Sohl

Gunther of Burgundy would also tread the tortuous path from history to opera, appearing in Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. The slaughter of the Burgundians and its aftermath became the foundation of the medieval epic the Nibelungenlied. Others from this transitional moment, when a new order replaced an older one, also trod this same path— there was a Brünnhilde of Austria and even a historical Siegfried in the Rhine region in this era. Perhaps they became conflated with earlier prototypes: The scholar Hans Delbrück thought that Arminius (Hermann), the German warrior who stunningly defeated the armored (that is, “scale-clad”) Roman legions in the Teutoburg Forest in 9 A.D., was a prototype for Siegfried the Dragon Slayer. Arminius is the name of a character (and the historical Arminius is also invoked several times) in Verdi’s opera I masnadieri, which premiered the year after Attila. Wodan and Valhalla appear in the libretto of Attila, and this is more than an operatic curiosity. The truth is that Wagner, in his Ring of the Nibelung, and Verdi in Attila deal with the same myth: fire and water purging the corruption of the old order in order to create a new and better order. For Verdi, the new creation is Venice, and, by implication, Italy after the Roman

Verdi relied on music and the human voice to create his mythic images. The famous Rio Alto scene in the prologue of Attila is an effective example. After Aquileia is destroyed in the first scene, we hear a great storm in the orchestra. Then a bell tolls and a chorus of hermits (an oxymoron that makes sense in opera) chants. The sun rises: flutes and strings rising up the scale. The hermits now pray in a full voice and praise the Creator, which is answered by higher voices offstage. Are these angels? In fact, they are the refugees— including women and children, from Aquileia, seeking refuge in the lagoon. Foresto tells the refugees that in this “enchantment of sea and sky” (“incanto di cielo e mar”) their ruined homeland will rise again like the Phoenix, reborn prouder and more beautiful, the wonder of the earth and the sea!

The basses, monks, are patriarchal authority. As hermits, they are the pure expression of God’s will rather than instruments of an institution (Verdi was famously anti-clerical). Their voice goes out over the waters as God’s Spirit (breath, voice) did on the first day, and it brings forth life: the Female principle (sopranos, Earth). The male and female voices unite and they give birth to a new creation, a new city that is the old homeland purged of corruption by the fires of war and the waters of the sea. In this “enchantment” opposites are united: male and female, of course, but also heaven and sea, life and death. The beautiful city of Venice becomes a visible pledge of resurrection.

The power of this scene lies not in its historicity but in its resonance in Verdi’s day and for us. The key is anagogical thinking, an important aspect of traditional Catholic methods of scriptural interpretation. Verdi and Solera were hardly exemplary Catholics, but Italian culture is imbued with this method of interpreting texts, and Verdi and Solera were supremely Italian. Anagogical analysis dictates that events in Scripture (and, by implication, everything else) have significance not only in themselves but in how they relate to other events in Scripture. The story of the miraculous Manna in the Desert matters in itself and also in how it prefigures the Eucharist. The converse is also true: the Last Supper fully expresses what was suggested by earlier miraculous meals, such as the Manna, the Loaves and Fishes, and so forth. The Founding of Venice in Attila is birth and rebirth, then and now, and the image of the Phoenix reminds us that the opera was first performed in Venice’s Teatro La Fenice (“The Phoenix Theater”). Toye’s concerns about anachronisms become superfluous since Verdi was not working in chronology, linear time. Verdi’s art is anagogical. He was addressing his audience at La Fenice, and he is addressing us today.

The significance of Attila lies not in the founding mythology of Venice, nor as a rallying cry to re-establish the Venetian Republic (which actually happened briefly in 1848). The Verdian truth of Attila—and what keeps it vital today— lies in ideas he expressed throughout his long career: an evolved patriotism that can be appreciated by everyone, rather than a chauvinistic nationalism. One searches in vain through his operas for simplistic attitudes about Italians being better, or foreigners being worse, than anyone else. Indeed, many of Verdi’s operas don’t even contain an obvious “bad guy,” only flawed people in complex situations. (Who is the truly bad guy in Aida? La Traviata? Falstaff?). Verdi’s patriotism is better than that. Attila is a supreme expression of the belief that Italy and its culture will always face crises, but they are, in some sense, sacred to the whole world. They are unequivocally worth preserving.
William Berger is a writer and radio producer for the Metropolitan Opera. His books include Wagner Without Fear, Puccini Without Excuses, and Verdi With a Vengeance.  

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Nicola Luisotti and Gabriele Lavia on Attila

Marina Romani

Verdi’s Attila is a powerful opera that has galvanized audiences since its 1846 premiere in Venice, with its political undertones that hint at the universal struggle for freedom. Maestro Nicola Luisotti and director Gabriele Lavia share their thoughts on this co-production with Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, new to San Francisco Opera.

Rendering for Act III by Alessandro Camera


What makes Attila such a compelling opera?

GL: I was inspired by Verdi’s treatment of the story of Attila the Hun because Verdi does not draw on the historical facts—rather, he treats Attila as a myth. Attila is a complex figure portrayed with positive and negative attributes. He is not a liar or a traitor, unlike other characters around him—Odabella, Foresto, and Ezio. In their pursuit of eliminating “the scourge of God,” the invader of their land, they will all become traitors and liars.

So, there is a central ambiguity in this opera: Attila is both a violent anti-hero, and a vulnerable man. How, and why, does this opera make Attila simultaneously sympathetic and despicable?

NL: The ambiguity exists because the enemy, Attila, represented the Austrians who occupied Northern Italy in the nineteenth century. The Italians and the Austrians in some ways held one another in high regard. Yet, at the moment your country is invaded, you realize that no matter how much you respect your charismatic enemy, you have to cut off the invader’s head. Thus Odabella cuts off Attila’s head in order to free her land: she both marries him and kills him. Her actions are a metaphor for Italy’s long battle for freedom in the nineteenth century, known as the
Risorgimento (“Resurgence”).

GL: Precisely because of these cross-historical connections, I thought that it would be interesting visually to tell the story through different historical moments. There are three phases on stage. First, there is Attila’s historical time (fifth century); then Verdi’s historical time (mid-nineteenth century); and finally our own contemporary age. In the third act, these periods coexist because we want to bring to light a sense of freedom that traverses all eras, and a sense of rebellion against the invader and destroyer. The metaphor of destruction is very important for this production, and it takes shape on stage through the material destruction of the space of the theater—three different theaters, from each of the three eras. First we have the ruins of a Roman amphitheater, then a nineteenth-century theater, and finally a theater so destroyed that it has become a movie theater in ruins. Our choice of the movie theater was influenced by recent barbaric Italian policies: many important theaters, that were also historical sites, were demolished or refashioned and turned into modern movie theaters.

So, the transformation from theater to movie theater is not a commentary on the cinema industry, but rather on the architectural violence done to historical buildings?

NL: Yes. It’s the physical space that is violated. We are not commenting on the cinematic art. Instead, we want to show the destruction of the space itself. Cinema is a fundamental art and, indeed, we use filmic images in our staging.

GL: Yes, we modified scenes from two different films on Attila to create a new work that comments on the symbolic presence of Attila in our culture.

What are some moments that you think will be particularly emotionally engaging for the audience?

NL: The very beginning of the opera is extraordinary. You’d expect that an opera about Attila the Hun would start with some warlike, harsh lines. But as I heard the very first delicate, melancholy notes, I remember saying to myself “What is this?” Verdi’s Attila is not violent; it’s the world in which he lives that is violent. His humbleness is reflected in many scenes, for example the chorus of children in the second act. Attila is not afraid of anything, and yet he is scared of the children’s song.

Attila is touching because it’s an opera about an oppressed people struggling for freedom that could only be accomplished by unity. We may or may not recognize ourselves in it the opera, but seeing Attila encourages us to reflect on the danger of denying people their freedom.

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Evan Baker

Giuseppe Verdi as statesman? Evan Baker examines the political aspects of the composer's work.

Giuseppe Verdi portrait by Etienne Carjat, 1877
Image Courtesy Bridgeman Art Library

Throughout his life, Verdi was a genuine patriot of Italy. His sentiments were reflected both subtly and overtly in his compositions. During the Risorgimento, the movement to create the modern state of Italy, which did not exist until 1861,Verdi’s operas contained many dramatic scenes with slyly used words that might otherwise be considered inflammatory or politically subversive, such as Italia (Italy), libertà (liberty and freedom), patria (country), onore (honor), guerra (war), sangue (blood), and straniere (foreigner, in this context derogatory). When set to stirring music these words have great power and potential to move the public to an emotional climax, or even political action.   
Born on October 9, 1813 in Le Roncole, a small village then a part of the province of Parma under French control, Verdi might have been considered a citizen of France. After the final defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at the battle of Waterloo, the diplomats at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 carved Italy into duchies, Austrian dominions, Papal States, and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Piedmont became the independent kingdom of Sardinia. Until the Italian unification, Verdi carried a passport issued by the Duchy of Parma.

The composer keenly followed the political progress towards the establishment of the Italian state. By 1846, he was the most successful Italian opera composer, and many of his compositions before 1850 played a role in the Risorgimento. His first great successes, Nabucco (1842), followed by Ernani and Attila (1844 and 1846) all contained verses— chiefly in the choruses— that inspired public enthusiasm of their Italian identity. After their premieres, the operas played far and wide throughout northern Italy. The verses took on a special meaning in late 1846 with the elevation of a new pope, Pius IX, who possessed liberal political leanings; many hoped he would take a leading part in the Risorgimento politics.

During the first two years of Pius’s reign, many performances of Verdi’s operas made patriotic allusions along with direct references to the new pope that stirred the public. One example was in Act Three of Ernani when Don Carlo reveals himself as the new emperor and forgives the conspirators: “O great Charles, more than your name, I want to have your virtues; I shall be—I swear to you and to God—imitator of your achievements. I forgive all… Glory and honor to Charlemagne!” At each instance of the chorus singing “Charles the Fifth” (“Carlo Quinto”), the Italian version of Pius IX’s name, “Pio nono,” was substituted. The words, “I forgive all” (“Perdono a tutti”) set off public demonstrations in numerous theaters and for a short while, this passage became a hymn to Pius IX.

Verdi wrote only one opera, La Battaglia di Legnano (“The Battle at Legnano”) with a libretto filled with patriotic sentiments that could be directly associated with the Risorgimento. The opera premiered in Rome in 1849. At this time, political events threw the city into a tumult; soon after the premiere, a Roman republic was declared. (The pope fled and did not return until 1850, and the republic itself survived only six months.)  In that heady atmosphere, Act Four, entitled “Morire per la patria!” (“To die for my country”) proved irresistible. At the news of victory at the battle of Legnano, the chorus celebrates with, “Italy rises again robed in glory! Unconquered and a queen she shall be as she once was!”

The crowning moment of the opera is the death scene of the hero Arrigo, fatally wounded in the battle at Legnano. He is brought in on a litter singing, “He who dies for his country cannot be so guilty in his heart… Italy is saved! I die, and I bless heaven!” The public reaction was electrifying. A newspaper reported demands for a repeat of the entire act and at one performance the reaction of an enthusiastic individual, a sergeant in the army, who tore off his medals and epaulets and threw them onto the stage shouting “Encore! Encore! Bring out the banners!” Ironically, La Battaglia di Legnano was a flop at other theaters and is rarely performed today.

Verdi was never a direct participant in any of the violent political demonstrations of the Risorgimento. He was, however, present at the beginning of the Italian unification, and his name was coincidentally connected to the patriotic cry, “Viva V.E.R.D.I.!”  On the surface, the phrase does indeed refer to the composer; but the acrostic actually refers to Vittorio Emanuele Re dItalia, the future king (“Re”) of the Italian state. This cry greeted the king in January 1859 at a performance at the Royal Theater in Turin. At the same time, the acrostic appeared as a graffiti slogan on walls elsewhere in northern Italy, particularly the walls of Milan, and became a common greeting. Contrary to popular belief, the acrostic and its direct patriotic connection to Verdi did not originate at the Roman premiere of Un Ballo in Maschera in 1859. Instead, at the end of February 1861, while Verdi was in Turin attending the Italian parliament in his capacity as deputy for Parma, he visited a performance of Donizetti’s La Favorite at the Royal Theater. The public spotted the composer at the rear of one of the boxes, and as his wife Giuseppina Strepponi wrote to a friend, “they began to shout ‘Viva Verdi!’ and everyone, from the boxes to the pit, stood up to salute the great composer…. If they only knew how well he composes risotto alla milanese God knows what ovations would have showered on his shoulders!”  Despite Giuseppina’s gentle mocking, we can only add our own tribute of “Viva Verdi” for not only his contributions to Italian cuisine, but also its music.
Dr. Evan Baker is an educator, writer, and lecturer on operatic history and production. He contributes regularly to several publications, including San Francisco Opera Magazine.

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Ferruccio Furlanetto and Samuel Ramey on Attila

Robert Wilder Blue

The recent popularity of Verdi’s Attila is due in large part to Samuel Ramey’s assumption of the title role at the New York City Opera in 1981. Over the next twenty years, he played Attila in most of the world’s major opera houses, including a searing portrayal with San Francisco Opera in 1991. Now, Ferruccio Furlanetto returns to San Francisco for the first time in fourteen seasons to assume the role of Attila, and Ramey plays Pope Leo I. These two legendary singers spoke recently with San Francisco Opera Magazine.

Ferruccio Furlanetto in the title role of our current production
Photo by Cory Weaver


Attila the Hun is known today to have been a cruel, brutal man whose sole aim seems to have been to conquer or destroy everything in his path. He killed his own brother in order to consolidate his power and eliminate a rival. But, Verdi romanticized his character for the opera…

SR: Attila, the historical figure, is not nearly as sympathetic as the character in the opera. In the opera he comes off sympathetically, because the other characters conspire against him. When I first started studying the opera, I saw that he wasn’t the same character as he was in history, the one we hear all the awful stories about.

FF: Verdi gives Attila dignity, which he did in all of his major bass roles. He is the only one that doesn’t betray someone else. I am living this character on stage following this very specific track, to be honest in what I say to others, and to be honest with myself. If you really live what you are saying through the music and through the text, the audience feels it.
            When it comes to historical characters, it’s important to study the actual person and to understand the period historically, politically, and religiously. With Attila we don’t have much, unfortunately. But, for characters like King Philip (in Don Carlo) or Boris Godunov, there is more information. Ten days ago I was in Moscow and had the chance to visit Boris Godunov’s grave. It’s very touching to be there, physically close to this amazing man. A few years ago I was in Madrid and went to San Lorenzo de El Escorial, which was built by Philip II. I saw the room where he slept. It was spartan with only one small window, looking out onto the altar of the cathedral underneath. This tells you a lot about the type of man he was and gives you a sense of how he lived.

Friends for years, Ramey and Furlanetto have not only sung many of the same roles, they have appeared together often—notably in Don Giovanni and Don Carlo. They made their San Francisco Opera debuts a year apart (Ramey as Colline in La Bohème in 1978; Furlanetto as Alvise in La Gioconda in 1979). This is their first appearance together here.

SR: I met Ferruccio in 1985. We were contracted by Deutsche Grammophon to record Don Giovanni. Then, we did the production together at the Salzburg Festival for several years with Maestro Von Karajan. We worked together in La Gazza Ladra at the Rossini Festival in Pesaro, and at the Met several times. We’re good buddies.

FF: We had some marvelous summers together in Salzburg. I learned a lot from him. There was never competition. It was just sincere friendship and appreciation of each other. I have great admiration for him.

Both singers have favorite memories from earlier appearances with San Francisco Opera. One of Ramey’s signature roles was the title character in Boito’s Mefistofele, in which he appeared with the company in the riveting Robert Carsen production.

SR: I had the opportunity to do two wonderful productions of Mefistofele, the first at New York City Opera, and the second one, Robert’s production, that we did here twice. That is definitely one of the high points of my career.

FF: The first time I sang in San Francisco was in the famous Gioconda with Renata Scotto and Luciano Pavarotti. It was my second engagement in this country. This was when Kurt Herbert Adler started to do the concerts in the park. It was the beginning of bringing opera to the public, and it was born here in San Francisco. It was amazing to sing in that concert, to see all those thousands of people sitting in Golden Gate Park, listening to Pavarotti. It’s wonderful to be back.

Samuel Ramey as Attila in our 1991 production
Photo by Marty Sohl

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"The Scourge of God"

Malcolm Mosher, Jr.

This is the epithet that has been commonly given to Attila, king of the Huns, a man and a group of people who inspired terror and dread for centuries after their appearance in history. The name Attila is still part of our modern vocabulary, typically synonymous with one invincible, one capable of great acts of savagery, and one, above all, to be feared.

We continue to use the name in a variety of diverse contexts, such as describing monsters like Adolf Hitler and even running backs on a football field. In 1808, the German author Zacharias Werner, capitalizing on the general fascination with the name and what it evoked, wrote a drama loosely based on the events surrounding Attila’s invasion of Italy in 452 AD, and it was this play of historical fiction that formed the basis of Verdi’s ninth opera, Attila. Let us then distinguish fact from fancy in the opera, and, in a larger sense, examine the reasons why Attila and his Huns were so fearsome.
In the latter part of the fourth century, the Roman Empire maintained a tenuous hold over much of Europe. In the west, Roman territory included all lands west and south of the Rhine, as well as the territories of Spain and England. To the east, the empire governed all territory south of the Danube, all the way to the Black Sea. The areas north of these rivers, from Germany to the Ukraine, were ruled by various independent Teutonic tribes, called barbarians by the Romans. Chief among these were the Visigoths in the west and the Ostrogoths in the east.
While numerous conflicts had arisen between the barbarians and the Romans, these borders were relatively stable until roughly the year 370. At that time, the Huns invaded the Ukraine from the east. The place of their origin remains uncertain, but their impact was major. In the space of a few short years, they completely engulfed the powerful kingdom of the Ostrogoths. The Visigoths, in panic, fled across the Danube into Roman territory, eventually settling around Toulouse in southern France and thereby causing serious unrest in Roman Gaul.
In an age of extreme violence when massacres by Romans and barbarians alike were not uncommon, the universal dread inspired by the Huns from the very beginning was profound and can be attributed to a variety of factors. Foremost of these was their physical appearance. According to the Byzantine historian Priscus, who visited the camp of Attila:
…They put to flight men who are their equals in war by the terror of their looks, inspiring no little horror by their awful aspect and horribly swarthy appearance. They have a sort of shapeless lump for a face, if I may say so, and pinholes rather than eyes. Their wild appearance gives evidence to the hardihood of their spirits, and they are cruel even to their children on the first day they are born. They cut the cheeks of the males with a sword so that before they can first receive the nourishment of milk, they are compelled to endure a wound. Their youths are without good looks, particularly as their faces are furrowed by the scar they receive as a babe ... The men are somewhat short in stature, have broad shoulders, thickset necks, and are always erect and proud ... These men, in short, live in the form of humans but with the savagery of beasts.
Whether Priscus was exaggerating or not, there is no question that the Roman legionnaires were terrified by the sheer sight of the Huns, a fact reported by a number of different contemporary historians. Also contributing to this wild appearance was their clothing, which typically consisted, by design, of a motley collection of furs, the more tattered the better. Another factor that inspired dread was the simple fact that, for nearly 70 years, the Huns were practically invincible on the field of battle. Nomads who lived on horseback, their cavalry was unsurpassed in horsemanship and in its ability to maneuver. Their principal weapon was the compound bow, capable of accuracy at 100 yards and capable of penetrating whatever armor their opponents wore. As an indication of their ferocity in battle, the Romans once hired a band of 300 Huns to intercept several thousand Goths intent on raiding the Italian frontier. After a brief struggle, the Goths fled in disarray, leaving behind over 1,200 dead comrades to just 17 slain Huns. Finally, their overall policy can be summarized by three key practices: pillage, destruction, and indiscriminate slaughter. Wild but unfounded rumors further enhanced their reputation, such as the practice of cannibalism and a beverage of blood from the slain. Is it any wonder then that they terrified their adversaries, barbarian and Roman alike?
While wreaking havoc among the Goths, they did not at first invade Roman territory. In fact, they maintained peace with the Empire and even served as mercenaries against the Goths and other barbarians. The great Roman general Aetius (Ezio in the opera) was raised in the Hun camp as a hostage for the peace, and the friendships he made would later benefit the empire.
What led to the eventual outbreak of hostilities was the hastening decline of the Roman Empire. With the death of the emperor Theodosius I in 395, the empire was divided up between his two sons, with the Western Empire centered at Rome and the Eastern at Constantinople. Both sons were weak rulers and were in turn succeeded by even more ineffectual 32 offspring—Valentinian III in the west and Theodosius II in the east. Each surrounded themselves by rapacious courtiers and eunuchs.
Aetius, after disposing of a personal rival, rose in stature to become the leading general of the Western Empire and certainly proved to be the bulwark of Roman Gaul, supported by the alliances he maintained with the Huns. Indeed, for his ongoing defense of Gaul against a variety of different Teutonic tribes, he has been called the “Last of the Romans,” an epithet he also has in the opera. As stated above, the friendships he made as a hostage in the Hun camp led to treaties between the Western Empire and the Huns, and his defense of Gaul was primarily achieved by the use of Hunnic mercenaries.
The Eastern Empire, however, had no such favorable connection with the Huns, and the weak Theodosius was more concerned with revels and debauchery than with maintaining of firm military control of his borders. To maintain peace, he consented to send 350 pounds of gold as a yearly tribute to Rua, the de factoking of the Huns. In 434, Rua died and was succeeded by Attila and his brother Bieda, whom Attila would eventually murder in order to consolidate rulership of the Huns in his own person. Edward Gibbon, the renowned 18th-century historian and author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, has provided the most famous description of Attila, paraphrasing several Roman and Gothic sources:
[He] exhibits the genuine deformity of a modern Calmuck; a large head, a swarthy complexion, small deep-seated eyes, a flat nose, a few hairs in the place of a beard, broad shoulders, and a short square body, of nervous strength, though of a disproportionate form. The haughty step and demeanor of the king of the Huns expressed the consciousness of his superiority above the rest of mankind; and he had a custom of fiercely rolling his eyes, as if he wished to enjoy the terror which he inspired. Yet this savage hero was not inaccessible to pity; his suppliant enemies might confide in the assurance of peace or pardon; and Attila was considered by his subjects as a just and indulgent master. He delighted in war; but after he had ascended the throne in a mature age, his head, rather than his hand, achieved the conquest of the north; and the fame of an adventurous soldier was usefully exchanged for that of a prudent and successful general.
His first action in the year 434 was to double the annual tribute paid by the Eastern Empire. With peace in the quarter, he then focused his attention on subjugating all territory from the Caucasus to the Danube, a feat fully achieved by 439. In this same year, hostilities against the Eastern Empire arose, because Theodosius had refused to send the required tribute. Attila led his army on a massive invasion of the Eastern Empire in 441, in which numerous cities were sacked and razed to the ground, with the populace either slain in a frenzy of blood-letting, or led off into captivity.1 Two further invasions took place in 443 and 447. The historian Priscus provides us with a glimpse of the kind of destruction that took place with his description of the ruins of the great city of Naissus (known today as Yugoslavia’s Niš). Upon passing through the site of this former city six years after its fall, he reported only desolation and rubble. The banks along the Morava River were still covered with the sun-bleached bones of those slain there. Only the massive city walls saved Constantinople from a similar fate. In the words of a later Byzantine writer, “Attila ground almost the whole of Europe into the dust.” After 447, Theodosius had no choice but to agree to the terms set by Attila, which included an increased annual tribute of 2,100 pounds of gold and payment of all previously unpaid tribute. Why Valentinian and Aetius in the west did not come to the aid of the Eastern Empire remains a mystery. While peace followed for several years, renewed hostility was inevitable, not just in the east, but in the west as well. Attila’s dilemma was where to strike first. In 450, Theodosius died and was succeeded by a man of more martial spirit, who promptly terminated the yearly tribute. Without any army, however, such a move was thoughtless and would certainly have resulted in the complete destruction of the Eastern Empire, had Attila not already decided to march west.
Undoubtedly, the wealth of the Western Empire appealed to Attila. He knew the west would be more difficult to master than the Eastern Empire, but he knew he would be aided by several Teutonic tribes in Gaul who had invited him to come. The pretext for the invasion was furnished by Valentinian’s sister Honoria. The latter had apparently been amorously involved with her steward and had become pregnant by him. Valentinian, suspecting that Honoria and her lover aimed for the throne, had the steward immediately killed and married his sister off to an elderly senator. Chafing at this arrangement, Honoria sent a message to Attila, offering her hand in marriage. Attila informed Valentinian of his acceptance of Honoria’s offer and demanded half of the empire as dowry. Valentinian refused and the stage was set for war in the west.
In 451, Attila crossed the Rhine by the modern city of Metz and proceeded to ravage France. While laying siege to Orleans, Aetius suddenly appeared on the horizon with a combined force of Italians and Visigoths. Attila withdrew to the northeast, where a vast plain provided his cavalry with suitable room to maneuver. The ensuing battle of Chalons is said to have started at 9:00 AM and lasted all day, with the resulting carnage totaling some 165,000 killed on each side. Whatever the actual losses were, it was a stinging defeat for Attila, but not a victory for Aetius. The king of his Visigoth allies had been slain and the surviving Visigoths quit the battlefield the following day. Aetius was urged by his own men to attack again and destroy the Huns once and for all, but he allowed them to escape unmolested, perhaps in the hope that he could negotiate a new treaty with his former friends.
Such would not be the case, however, for Attila decided to try again the following year, 452, this time by crossing the Alps and marching directly upon Rome itself. Having crossed the Alps, the Huns descended on the plain of Venetia, whose chief city was Aquileia. Fortified by impressive walls, Aquileia had never been stormed nor forced to surrender. It was the key bastion that anchored the eastern defense of the empire. In the ensuing struggle about the walls, the Huns were beaten back and Attila is said to have intended to withdraw. Inspecting the walls one last time, however, he saw a family of storks take flight from the city with their young. Interpreting this as an omen portending the doom of the city, he resumed the assault with renewed vigor and succeeded in breaching the walls. Some people from the city escaped into the lagoons and islands toward the coast, but the greater part were either massacred or led off in captivity. The great city itself was so thoroughly razed to the ground that, less than 100 years later, no one knew where it formerly stood. This is where our opera begins, although various passages in it do refer to some of the preceding historical events.
Destruction, fire, and death befell city after city as the Huns continued westward. Eventually Milan was taken, but for some reason the city was spared destruction. A colorful story has survived in which Attila, surveying a mural depicting the emperors of the East and West seated on golden thrones before whom figures of Huns lay prostrate, forced a local artist to repaint the scene, with himself seated on a golden throne and the two emperors lying prostrate.
Aetius, in Gaul and without sufficient troops, chose not to contest Attila, leaving the latter with an open route to Rome. Valentinian, in turn, accused Aetius of abandoning Italy in order to establish a personal kingdom of his own in Gaul. Certainly, the pact in the opera, whereby Ezio offers Attila the universe if he himself can rule Italy, is pure fabrication. While the rest of Italy trembled at the anticipated attack, Attila did not march south. Popular legend attributes Attila’s decision to turn back as the result of an encounter with Pope Leo, a fanciful tale also portrayed in the opera. Leo did indeed travel north in an attempt to arrange a truce, but he was accompanied by two other secular officials, a former prefect, who had already negotiated with Attila on a previous occasion, and the ex-consul of 450, a man of great wealth. Unfortunately, the actual meeting between Attila and this embassy was not recorded. Legend has it that Attila, in complete awe of Leo and the God of the Romans, chose to withdraw rather than march on Rome. Modern historians find it unreasonable to consider that religion or superstition had anything to do with his withdrawal, for the Huns had razed numerous churches, raped nuns, and killed untold numbers of clergy in the past. The religion of the Empire had meant nothing to the Huns before and it is unlikely that it did on this occasion either. There is a sound military reason to explain the cessation of hostilities by Attila. Famine and pestilence had devastated Italy in the spring and summer of 451 and conditions had not improved. The land was exhausted and incapable of sustaining an enormous army with an even larger number of horses. His army had been seriously weakened the preceding year at Chalons; to continue further south would have invited disaster. Attila was shrewd and had frequently demonstrated a thorough knowledge of warfare. Surely he recognized the danger in continuing south. Quite likely the promise of tribute also influenced his decision.
At any rate, the Huns returned back to their capital across the Danube and Attila made it perfectly clear that the Eastern Empire would be his next target. A man with several hundred wives already, he was taken with yet another woman named Ildico, who might have been of German origin. A great celebration was held on the wedding night and he drank heavily before retiring to the nuptial chamber. Known to have been prone to nose bleeds, he apparently suffered a major bleed while asleep and suffocated. By the following afternoon, when no noise had been heard from within, the door was broken down and his body discovered beside his trembling bride. A careful examination of the corpse revealed no wounds or obvious signs of poison, and the Huns therefore concluded that he had not died from foul play. The fate of Ildico is uncertain, but she does not seem to have been harmed, although in later months rumors would circulate that she had murdered Attila. These rumors would also eventually work their way into the Nordic sagas, where the character Etzel (Attila) was said to have been slain by Kriemhild, his Burgundian bride, on their wedding night in revenge for the murder of her brothers.
Regarding the opera, Foresto, Uldino, and Odabella are fictitious, as is the plot of the latter part of the opera; the Huns were not defeated by the Romans in Italy, nor was Attila slain by Italian conspirators. Ezio is a distortion of the historical Aetius. The encounter between Attila and Leo is drawn from popular legend. This fiction, however, served Verdi’s purpose well. Foresto and the survivors of Aquileia represent the future founders of Venice, where the opera would receive its premiere. More importantly, the overall theme deals with Italian patriotism and the crushing defeat of northern invaders from the Danube, a thinly disguised call to arms for Italians to drive out their contemporary Austro-Hungarian overlords from Italy.
As an epilogue, the Hun Empire, which, at its zenith under Attila, extended from the Ukraine to eastern France, collapsed shortly after his death. The dominions of the Hun were divided up among his sons, who then feuded with each other. The long oppressed Teutonic tribes, taking advantage of the lack of unity among their oppressors, soon rose up in revolt and destroyed their antagonists. Those Huns who escaped fled back to the east, although one tribe found service under the new emperor of the Eastern Empire. Aetius, who for several decades was the sole person responsible for preserving the Western Empire for his emperor, met an end in 455 not unlike that of Julius Caesar. While engaged in a discussion with Valentinian, the emperor drew forth a sword and plunged it into the chest of his general, an act that was imitated by some 100 of his courtiers and eunuchs. Valentinian, in turn, was murdered a short time later by two barbarians who had been devoted to Aetius. The Western Empire would come to an end 21 years later, in 476. Conversely, the Eastern Empire would eventually be revived under Justinian and survive for centuries to come.
Malcolm Mosher, Jr., is a historian, lecturer, and writer as well as a software designer. This article appeared in a previous edition of San Francisco Opera Magazine.
1 Priscus encountered one former captive in the Hun camp who had earned his freedom on the battlefield and preferred the society of the Huns to that of the Romans.

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"A Powerhouse Revival...A Must-See for Verdi Aficionados!"

  –San Jose Mercury News
"Verdi Victory...Excellent Opening Performance!"

  –San Francisco Chronicle
"Nicola Luisotti conducting with vigor and insight, elicited a gripping, propulsive performance from the orchestra."
"Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto has inherited the Attila mantle, and he inhabited it with tremendous verve. The voice is big, firm-toned and resonant, and Furlanetto deployed it with clarity and fervor. Samuel Ramey—a San Francisco favorite—returned in the short but essential role of Pope Leo I, and his scene with Furlanetto, which brings Act I to a dramatic close, was both touching and eminently theatrical."

  –San Jose Mercury News
"Ferruccio Furlanetto gave a magnetic and authoritative performance...singing with muscular clarity and a darkly heroic demeanor."

  –San Francisco Chronicle
"The evening's greatest vocal triumph belonged to soprano Lucrecia Garcia."

Garcia gave "a superb company debut as Odabella in a performance marked by clarion, precise high notes, lustrous chest tones and striking flexibility in the role's demanding passagework. Here's hoping she returns, and soon."

"Baritone Quinn Kelsey brought suavity and vigor to his role as Attila's Roman adversary Ezio, especially in the gorgeously sung aria to begin Act 2."

"Nicola Luisotti kept things moving with his trademark ebullience, giving the piece the requisite bluster."

"The Opera Chorus gave a vibrant, well-tuned performance."

  –San Francisco Chronicle
"Effectively staged, with an energized cast and a dynamic orchestral performance."
"Tenor Nathaniel Peake...impressed as Uldino, Attila's Berton slave. Tenor Diego Torre was an impassioned Foresto."

  –San Jose Mercury News
"Furlanetto and Kelsey were wonderful, separately and together, and exemplified vocal splendor."
"Robertson's chorus shined just as brightly as it did in last week's premiere of John Adams' 'Nixon in China' and provided the opera's highlights."

  –San Francisco Examiner


  • Tue 06/12/12 8:00pm

  • Fri 06/15/12 8:00pm

  • Wed 06/20/12 7:30pm

  • Sat 06/23/12 8:00pm *

  • Thu 06/28/12 7:30pm *

  • Sun 07/1/12 2:00pm *

*OperaVision, HD video projection screens featured in the Balcony level for this performance, is made possible by the Koret/Taube Media Suite.


Company Sponsors John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn are proud to support this production. Additionally, this production is made possible, in part, by the Amici di Nicola of Camerata.

Cast, program, prices and schedule are subject to change.