For an opera steeped in blood and murder, the strains of exquisitely beautiful passages, especially from the strings, is always surprising, from the overture to the final passages..
The production marks a welcome return for Opera Australia after a long postponement due to Covid, and it is the last for Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini, who stood from his seat in the auditorium to a round of appreciative applause from the audience.
In the title role as Attila was Ukrainian bass Taras Berezhansky, who thrilled the audience with his command of the role and imposing stage presence. (My gay companion dubbed him “Attila the Hunk”!).
Natalie Aroyan, as Odabella, the fiancée of Foresto and daughter of the assassinated ruler of Aquileia, which was being attacked by the Huns, was exquisite in her command of her role, both musically and dramatically.
Diego Torre, playing the jealous fiancé of Odaabella, never fails to thrill with his mellifluous tenor.
Other performers included baritone Michael Honeyman, who stood in for Mario Cassi at the last moment as the Roman General Enzio, and was warmly welcomed by the audience when the cast changes were announced before the opening.
The production is appropriately brought forward to Nazi Germany, which is revealed in the military costumes of the soldiers.
The use of the digital screens in the background was effective in providing another dimension to the production, showing the citizens of Aquileia fleeing from the Huns, while the stage setting reflects the brutal destruction of the city in broken columns and scattered ruins.
Special mention must be made of the large chorus, which added a powerful musical element to the production.
The opera was directed by Davide Livermore and revived by Kate Gaul, while the orchestra performed superbly under the baton of conductor Andrea Battistoni.
At the end of the opera, when the cast stepped forward to receive ovations from the audience, there was a heart-rending moment when Berezhansky wrapped the Ukrainian flag around his shoulders, reminding us of the current violent sacking of his own country by foreign invaders.
If you’ve never seen “Attila”, you must not miss this production, which is about as perfect as it could be.
Until November 5
Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Pt