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Parma  Verdi Festival 2010 - Attila: Soloists, Orchestra and Chorus Teatro Regio di Parma. Conductor: Andrea Battistoni. Verdi Festival. Teatro Verdi di Busseto. 19.10.2020. (JMI)

New production Teatro Regio di Parma.
Direction: Pier Francesco Maestrini.

Sets and Costumes: Carlo Salvi.

Video Projections: Alfredo Troisi.

Lighting: Bruno Ciulli.

Attila: Giovanni Battista Parodi.

Odabella: Susanna Branchini.

Ezio: Sebastián Catana.

Foresto: Roberto De Biasio.

Uldino: Cristiano Cremonini.

Leone: Zyian Atfeh.

Production Picture - Courtesy of the Parma Verdi Festival

Busseto has a kind of theatre in miniature, making a visit there a unique experience if you happen to attend an opera performance. This Teatro Verdi has a maximum capacity of around 300, which is reduced to some 250 for opera. The stage is obviously very small too and productions have to be mostly designed specially for this theatre - which requires a lot of imagination from both directors and in fact from audiences too. Even so, Franco Zeffirelli mounted both Aida and Traviata, in this space as can be seen from DVD recordings and the Verdi Festival has also moved to Busseto more than once. It does so again this year with Attila - an opera that belongs to Verdi’s so called ‘galley years,’ although I rate its musical quality as superior to much of the composer’s other work for the same period.

We were offered a new production – obviously – by Pier Francesco Maestrini, who has displayed his imagination very well to make a performance of this opera possible in such a small area. He mostly eliminates any kind of sets, except some for stage props, and he uses some beautiful video projections at the back of the stage instead. We saw the battlefield, the flight from Aquileia, Attila’s tent and some exciting images of a forest. In such a small space miracles cannot be achieved of course and Maestrini wisely confines himself to narrating the plot without any further complications.

For me, the biggest success of the evening was the musical direction by the very young (23 year old) Andrea Battistoni. It was a huge - and welcome - surprise to witness this conductor’s obvious maturity at such an early age. His reading was much more Verdian than Yuri Temirkanov’s the day before, so full of strength and character, that it reminded me of two of Battistoni’s great compatriots in its approach to Verdi’s music: namely Riccardo Muti and Nicola Luisotti. Battistoni is a genuine ‘young wonder’ from whom we will surely hear much in the future. The reduced orchestra was excellent under his baton as was the chorus and the whole trip to Parma would have been worthwhile simply to discover Signor Battistoni’s talent.

The theatre’s size makes judging voices quite difficult, unless one knows them beforehand. All voices seem big in Busetto and some of them come across as huge, although this is nothing but an acoustic illusion.

The protagonist Attila was Giovanni Battista Parodi, whose voice might have had some difficulties in a larger house, but here sounded like a big bass. He was a better Attila than I expected, though perhaps not wholly convincing, with the top of the tessitura remaining rather too backward and with some lack of elegance in his phrasing. He was however case, a perfectly reasonable Attila.

Someone should have told soprano Susanna Branchini that there is no need to show too much vocal volume in Busseto, unless a singer wants to test the building’s structure. Her Odabella was a convincing heroine, facing up to all the difficulties of the score with commitment but I suspect even the real Attila would have trembled at her presence and voice. In the circumstances of this theatre, she seemed like an extraordinarily powerful dramatic soprano, although I do not believe that this would be her natural repertoire in a larger space.

Roberto De Biasio was Foresto and he confirmed the good impression he left last year in Parma singing Jacopo Foscari. He owns a beautiful, healthy and well projected voice, not completely elegant in phrasing perhaps, but he should have no trouble to in developing an interesting career.

I would like to see the Romanian baritone Sebastian Catana in a different house to draw some firm conclusions. His voice seems of medium size, with a natural inclination to singing loudly but here he was a more than acceptable Ezio.


The tiny theatre was sold out with the obvious presence of many tourists in the audience. They applauded all of the arias and cabalettas, giving a very warm final reception to the artists. The most acclaimed was Andrea Battistoni but Susana Branchini and Roberto De Biasio were also cheered loudly.

José M Irurzun

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