Attilla

 

An opera with a prologue and three acts on a libretto by Temistocle Solera, taken from Attila
re degli Unni by Zacharias Werner.

First performed Venice, La Fenice Theatre on March 17th, 1846

 

Production

 

 


Act 1

The opera takes place in the middle of the 5th century in Aquileia, a Roman city on the coast near modern Venice.

Aquileia has been ravaged by the invasion of the ruthless Attila the Hun. Torches and the fires still burning in Aquileia light up the night. The victorious Hun soldiers pay homage to their leader Attila the Hun. Uldino, a young Breton slave, announces to his master, Attila, that there is a group of captured warrior maidens from the city. These maidens were spared execution from the massacre because The Hun soldiers admired them for having continued to fight so courageously alongside their fathers and brothers and then continued to fight bravely after all their men were slaughtered. Among them is Odabella. She had witnessed her father killed by Attila's army. Odabella also believes that the man she loves, Foresto, is also dead. However, Attila is smitten by Odabella's beauty and her defiant words. Attila the Hun, also known as "The Scourge of God", falls in love with Odabella and gives her his sword. Attila then orders that, together with the other maidens, Odabella shall be taken to the camp to become part of his court.

Odabella belts on Attila's sword, pretending to submit to the invader's will, but she plans her revenge. As the women are taken away, Ezio, a valiant Roman general, is brought forward seeking an alliance. Attila refuses indignantly any compromise: he plans to conquer Rome and the rest of Italy through force. Troubled, Ezio answers that if Attila will not have him as an ally, he will have him as an enemy on the field of battle. Meanwhile at Rio Alto, in the Adriatic lagoons, the hermits live in huts built on piles. They joyously take in any refugees from Aquileia who are making plans to build a city stronger and more beautiful. The new city shall be built on piles and the lagoons will become canals.


Act II.

Scene l. The woods near Attila's camp. Evening.

Odabella is in mourning for her father and Foresto. However, Foresto has survived and has managed to find Odabella despite great danger. Unfortunately Foresto believes that Odabella has been unfaithful to him and is enraged. Foresto reminds Odabella of the destruction of her country, the death of her own father and the betrayal of the love between them. Odabella desperately defends herself against Foresto's accusations of treachery. In defiance she tells Foresto that she will act like Judith of the old testament. (Judith saved Israel by killing Holofernes with his own sword. Holofernes was an invading Assyrian army general of Nebuchadnezzar). She explains to Foresto that her revenge is the only reason to follow Attila and to wear his sword. Odabella assures Foresto that she will avenge her country by killing the invader. It is then a repentant Foresto who embraces Odabella and, as in times past, pledges his love to her.


Scene 2: Attila's tent late evening.

Attila is sleeping and is guarded by Uldino. Suddenly, Attila awakes, terrified by a nightmare. Attila has been dreaming of an old man coming toward him. This old man prohibits him from entering Rome. Rome is the land of the gods: not of common mortals.

Nevertheless, Attila soon recovers, and, calling his captains, orders the trumpets to sound for his march on Rome. The trumpets barely start to sound, when a chorus is heard approaching. A long column of young Roman men and women descends from the hills. Pope Leo leads the procession. Attila then realises Pope Leo is the old man in his nightmare. Pope Leo addresses Attila and repeats those fatal words that Attila had recalled from his dream. Attila and his troops are terrified. Attila lays down on the ground before Pope Leo and gives up his plan to conquer Rome.


Act III. Ezio's camp near Rome.

Ezio, the Roman general, angrily reads a letter from the Emperor Valentinian, announcing a truce with Attila the Hun. The letter also orders him back to Rome. Ezio has grandiose dreams of rebuilding Rome to its ancient splendour by taking the command away from Emperor Valentinian whom he believes is an ineffective leader. A delegation of Attila's warriors arrive. The delegation invites Ezio to their camp for negotiations. Among these Hun warriors is Foresto in disguise. Foresto tells Ezio that he will kill Attila that very day. Foresto also tells Ezio that his troops should be at the ready for attack once his plan has been successfully carried out. Confirmation of Attila's demise will in the form of a signal.: a fire on the hill. Foresto believes timing is crucial and it is then that the Roman army should attack the enemy who, without Attila, would be easily defeated.

Attila's camp is illuminated by torches, and a sumptuous banquet is being prepared. Attila welcomes Ezio and invites him to agree to a truce. Suddenly a wind comes up that extinguishes the torches illuminating the camp. In the darkness Foresto cautiously approaches Odabella and informs her that Uldino has added poison to Attila's drinking cup. However, just as Attila raises the cup to his lips, Odabella, who wants her enemy killed by her own hand and not by anyone else let alone by the betrayal of one of his servants, tells Attila that his cup is poisoned. At this point Foresto claims that he had poisoned Attila's cup. Foresto's life is spared only because Odabella pleads for Foresto's life in exchange for no resistence to Attila's marriage proposal and general compliance. Attila announces his plans to marry Odabella the next day. Attila also decides to march on Rome. Foresto curses Odabella for what he believes to be a horrendous betrayal. In vain, Odabella implores Foresto to escape, assuring him that soon he will have good reason to forgive her. In the woods that separate Ezio's camp from Attila's, Foresto waits for Uldino to bring him news of marriage between Attila and Odabella. Uldino announces that the procession is accompanying the bride to the commander's tent. The Roman troops are at the ready just beyond the woods and Foresto tells Uldino to give them the signal to attack. While Foresto continues to curse Odabella's betrayal, Odabella herself arrives, having escaped from Attila's camp. A furious Attila has pursued Odabella closely behind. Attila is blocked by his three enemies: Firstly Odabella confronts Attila with the killing of her father. Secondly Foresto has his scores to settle with Attila - namely Attila's destruction of Italy, not to mention that Attila has destroyed the love Foresto had once shared with Odabella. Finally Ezio confronts Attila for his crimes against humanity and the destruction he has caused all over the world. At that moment the Roman soldiers attack Attila's camp Foresto then lunges forward to stab Attila, but is beaten to the punch by Odabella. Odabella accomplishes her personal mission of revenge and runs Attila through with the very sword he had once gifted to her.

 

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