Sunday, February 28, 2010

Huns & Lovers

Attila at The Met last night. My first time seeing the opera, which, frankly, is a minor Verdi that doesn't add up to the sum of its parts. But, wow, the parts...! Meraviglioso!!

Let's start with the outfits. The capes !! The coats !! Tutto Prada. Ezio's was magnificent-- a full length black leather cape with LED metallic looking studs (which glowed in the dark) below the epaulets, copper colored lining, and long black fringes (cowboy style !) flowing down the back. I'll take two of those, please, one in grey. Then, the coats. Fur coats, fur collars, even fur covered bedding for Attila. Enough fur to gag the animal rights movement for the next 12 months. It's Prada, so you can imagine the shoes and the boots. At times, it seemed like Project Runway run amok up there, but my opera glasses were glued to my face for a large portion of the performance. Stunning.

Mixed review for the sets. The curtain opens on an enormous pile of cracked cement, twisted metal, and assorted grey, dusty debris, that, sadly and ironically, resembles the post 9/11 WTC and the earthquake photos we have been seeing out of Haiti and Chile this month. But, highly effective and a great monochromatic backdrop for the costumes that were to come.

The set rises and falls, in the style of the Met's Aida, to reveal characters and crowd scenes played out below the main stage. Also highly effective, except for the one Italian over-the-top scene where the Huns sport headbands with tiny glowing LED lights set in the middle of their foreheads. Silly.

Not so effective were the forest scenes. The entire set was covered with dense green foliage about 30 feet high, but, for some reason, the set designers (who architected the wonderful Birds Nest stadium design for the Beijing Olympics) carved two large circular holes midway up the foliage to reveal minimalist mini-stages for the action to be played out. Spoiled the effect.

Oh yeah, there was music...and singing too. This is not one of Verdi's AM-tunes operas, so not much to 'hum' on the way out. This early work, though, is a singers' showcase. Almost as if the music itself faded into the background so the principal singers could shine. Ildar Abdrazakov as Attila--powerful bass with a menacing stage presence that was perfect for the role. The Lithuanian soprano, Violeta Urmana, whose vocal power lifted us all out of our seats (and loud bravas from the audience at curtain call), and the Mexican tenor Ramon Vargas, who is now 2 for 2 in my book, having seen him in Damnation of Faust earlier in the season. Maestro Muti led a well balanced presentation of orchestra, singers, costumes, and scenic design that allowed each element to shine and tried to drag forth the best from a rather mediocre score.

How fortunate I am to have this extravaganza just walking distance away from home....another of many reasons to love NYC !

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