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Hun more for the road

Photo by Ken Howard, courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera, via fashionista.comLa Cieca has the first top-secret highly classified eyes-only report from inside the hermetically sealed Attila dress rehearsal at the Met.  Our spy  (possibly pictured above) speaks out –  after the jump, naturally. 

UPDATE, Acts 2 and 3: La Cieca’s spy adds that Carlos Alvarez canceled after the first half, “though he didn’t sound sick.” Costumes “continue runway-worthy, like Hugo Boss on a beaver hunting expedition, superb tailoring.” The staging, though, our spy found “inept and boring.”

FURTHER UPDATE: Photos of a dress rehearsal of Attila (minus those annoying watermarks) are posted by Friend of the Box Nick Scholl over at [Above photo by Ken Howard, courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera, via]

Going great so far [Prologue and Act 1]: MUTI AMAZING.

The costumes are runway-ready, all industrial leather and fur and boots and crumpled textures like “downtown chic”. Sometimes looks rather silly: “Like my fur? It’s Prada, baby!”

The Roman soldiers carry shields that look to me like enormous iPods. Coincidence? I think not! (Unsure what connection would be, however!)

The chorus dressed in jeans and rumpled designer t shirts and reminds me of Mark Morris Orfeo just a bit.  Are they a religious cult?

The prologue is staged atop a concrete rubble pile that looks like Hunters Queens. Act one has a lovely lush green terrarium look. There’s certainly nothing really wild or, to be honest, all that interesting going on. the singing is ok but only Ildar Abdrazakov is a standout.

We have no photos yet, so La Cieca is going to assume [accurately! - LC] the opera looks sort of like this:


More after part two.


  • Sanford says:

    One wonders whether the real Hugo Boss ever hunter beaver; there were an awful lot of closeted homosexual Nazis.. and he did come of age in the Weimar Republic, after all.

    Love the photo of Johnny Weir. Wish his skating lived up to his self-promotion.

  • squirrel says:

    was there, and yep -- Muti is a revelation! can’t say much else for the piece however.

    Costumes are slightly laughable but I’m sure they’ll draw the amount of publicity the Met was looking for when they dreamed this up!

  • Straussmonster says:

    I was digging the post-apocalyptic wasteland first set, but the Jurassic forests of Italy didn’t make any sense to me. The orchestra sounds great under Muti, though.

    • Indiana Loiterer III says:

      “Jurassic forests?” Palm trees and cycads? Were there non-avian dinosaurs to match, then?

      • La Cieca says:

        Were there non-avian dinosaurs to match, then?

        At the Met? Always.

        • Straussmonster says:

          Zing! My friend who contributed the dress tix says well played, well played.

          Is this the place to mention that if I could institute ONE policy at the Met, it would frisking everyone who enters for plastic bags?

        • Aiden D. Delizia says:

          Pedodactylus grandis

        • CruzSF says:

          What’s in the plastic bags?

        • Straussmonster says:

          Plastic bags where people have 1) brought illicit food etc. and more importantly 2) think it’s okay to rustle digging through them throughout the performance. I’m pretty laid-back by nature, but *crinkle crinkle* as I’m trying to listen to a quiet passage makes me very, very angry.

        • La Cieca says:

          La Cieca is in agreement with you about the bags, which unfortunately seem to be the accessory of choice at any sort of free or inexpensive event. The worst part is that these people won’t just put the bag on the floor and be done with it, but insist on holding the bag on the lap through the entire performance, constantly and nervously drumming on the noisy stuff for what reason I cannot guess (just to be sure it’s still there?)

          A loud “SHHHH” helps sometimes, but other times you just have to remind yourself that eventually there will be a new audience taking this one’s place. Of course that new audience will spend the whole performance checking their email on their iPhones, but the nice thing about life is that everybody dies eventually.

        • CruzSF says:

          They eat during the performance?! I blame TV.

        • Straussmonster says:

          From a bar in the East Village, my friend remembers his French mother’s idea--candies wrapped in edible rice paper, so the whole thing can be devoured at one go, no rustling, no noise. The marketing name? Silent Suck.

        • CruzSF says:

          So THAT’S where the phrase originated!

        • Alto says:

          “(just to be sure it’s still there?)”

          That’s certainly why I fiddle with my own lap so much.

  • flamingopera says:

    Off topic: 2010-11 NPs photos has been uploaded by accident (I think) on the Mets website. Juan Diego Florez looks so funny as Ory :D

  • MontyNostry says:

    It looks like an 80s rock video to me.

  • OlivePratt says:

    muti is muti. glum, hardly great. his singers are always muted and not really a part of anything, the orchestra sounds lean and mean and that’s not bad, just his unendingly boring first choice everywhere he conducts.
    He killed Philadelphia, will mess with the sonority of Chicago, and loves to “lean” a sound even when it would really help this early Verdi spring to life more. Attila has some truly wonderful moments, I do hope he lets them happen or go on inspite of him.

    I am not so easily impressed by his sour machismo as some of the “girls” in here. Besides he should have been here a while ago, now we have to go through a honeymoon. where is that damn rice?

    • Avantialouie says:

      Does this make the Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago’s sonority, and now the Met “mutants?

    • MontyNostry says:

      I’ve always found Muti seriously overrated. He has a bandmasterly approach to Verdi and one of the nastiest concerts I’ve ever heard was Schubert and Brahms he conducted with the VPO — streamlined auto-pilot stuff.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

      “his singers are always muted” because they sing that way for Mewti.

  • aloki miyeyi says:

    “Urmana was frequently inaudible and mostly
    off pitch.”
    She was marking. In her case this means singing very lightly, almost inaudibly, sometimes appearing to be miming the words, at other times singing down the octave. She is perfectly allowed to do so at a dress rehearsal. From my experience of her performances, the actual performance will be sung in full voice, with mixed results, and ultimately will disappoint, and maybe be considered inadequate to the requirements (see Aida HD).

    “Abdrazakov was the only one on stage who created anything resembling a characterization.
    Maybe I was grabbing at straws.”
    It may be unfair to judge any of the principles by their acting performance in this production, which is so claustrophobic as to inhibit any natural stage movement. At one point Abrazakov was gesticulating in a way that could have been him grasping at straws. He was often confined to a circle surrounded by vegetation, and resorted to a lot of manipulation of his cape.

    This production is suffocating. The Prologue could have been constructed from the remains of the Zambella Lucia, pieces of Electra, etc. Attila appears here, with a fantastical helmet, replete with LED units, or battery powered light bulbs, and lots of backward sweep. This very promising tarnhelm comes to naught, as poor Attila has to gingerly pick his way through the rubble throughout the scene. Here also, we first meet Uldino, clad throughout as a homeless person wandered in from the Columbus Circle subway hub. He is escorting captured Roman women, including Odabella. She is costumed in very modified Lady Gaga, with a touch of Elsa Lancester on a bad hair day. They interact, and this produces the rest of the plot: he gives her his sword, later she kills him with it. The horde of Huns is also first encountered here, napping at the front of the stage. Later they are mostly confined to what could be the first level of the set from Damnation. This device of underground existence, here topped by ruins, here by vegetation, is what I found so stifling to the work. For example, what is in the libretto described as the camp of Attila, in this production is a cramped space underneath the massive ruins referred to above. The hermits gather there, the Pope appears in front of them, etc.

    In many places the libretto refers to the horizon or the open sky, clear and uplifting, or filled with red clouds, portending great slaughter. We never see a patch of blue, nevermind a horizon, or anything resembling or even reminiscent of a sky.

    The other major element in the production is the forest, which is first revealed as the entire stage, and which, after its impressive turn, is raised to reveal yet again the subterranean space which we know from the area beneath the rubble. When first the chorus is revealed to be enclosed in this catacomb, they are singing one of those choral national anthems which are littered over early Verdi, but which is here not allowed to swell and overwhelm, inhibited as it is by the staging.

    I will not discuss at any length the singing, other than to report that Ramon Vargas gave the performance that he will undoubtedly give outside of rehearsal. He sang full voice throughout. And Samuel Ramey appears as the Pope, another of the superannuated characters he can still create. And he has red Prada shoes on, only occasionally visible to the public, but I think he used them at the curtain call.

    The circle carved from the forest primeval is also used several times, once at the left side, occupied by Attila, once on the right side, spotlighting and confining Ezio. Twice there is a level above the catacomb and below the forest which at one point has a long table, with the principals seated around it.

    The costumes for the principles would probably make a much bigger impression if they ever had a runway. As it is they must walk about and gesture in very confined spaces.

    Overall I would say that for me the production is far too conceptual to support the work, and so it ultimately bores. Muti is celebrated for being faithful to the score, and more, inflexibly insisting that everyone else also limit themselves to the page. As for the orchestra this is good news, and he is displaying his ideas with 2 grand instruments, the Metropolitan Opera orchestra and the chorus. These function efficiently and produce quality even when mediocrity is at the helm; therefore he must be credited with the wisdom to use them, rather than the resulting professionalism that they display. His knowledge of the score, his passion, his dynamism, his ideas, are all on display, but also his conservatism: no one is permitted any optional high notes. Now we are not talking here of e-flats in Aida, but of the octave or so up which can be used at the end of Verdi arias and ensembles, and which can add a great deal of momentum to the music. They were common currency at the time the opera was composed, and can open up the music to a visceral excitement that is appropriate to the uneven material.

    The costumes for the chorus and the extras might, as with those of the principles, be seen to better advantage better lit on a runway. Here they blend into the background, all grays and browns; they could just as well have used the costumes from The House of the Dead.

    Mercifully, we are spared any Tosca-House of the Dead-Carmen masonry. I would be fearful of Elsinore at this point, but I think that the Hamlet production originated elsewhere, and predates the Home Depot connection.

  • meohmy says:

    I saw this rehearsal just the beginning of it up to the first scene change after Erika Badu appeared with her back up singers, the car doors as shields were used and the blue denim/cotten hosptial clothes appeared and the race car driver helmut was picked up by Attila (or as my friend called it -- a centerpiece) and after the silent film acting and direction and that horrible Haitian earthquake building wreck set -- didn’t know that steel ties were used in concrete back in the venetian area where the people ran into the swamps to escape Attila -- who could have been the sexy beast etc. in a wonderful production of hum drum music, although brilliantly played by the orchestra led my the man of the hour -- I could not take it any longer -- what a bore send Audi and Ms. Prada back to Milano and let them ruin La Scala but not the Met

  • rommie says:

    according to Opera Chic, Muti says this will be his last time at the met. does that mean he only conducts one full (half) run and quits his association with the met? that’s kinda insulting. lol. i dunno.

  • operaddict says:

    The Odabella should be Elizabeth Blanke-Biggs. She is the finest dramatic coloratura singing today. Don’t believe me? Check out her You Tube clips. Legendary singing. Her’s is take no prisoners, full throated glorious singing that would wow any audience. Violeta Urmana marking a final dress rehearsal? Such behavior should be a HUGE red flag for any opera house. For God’s sake…fine a singer who can really thrill for a change, instead of ones who just barely survive.
    Attila is a SINGER’S opera. It takes bigger than life, fabulous voices that can make this primary color style of opera come alive and fill in the dry spots which Verdi hadn’t figured out what to do with yet. No costumes, scenery or lighting can disquise the fact that this kind of opera is all about SINGING. Any decent conductor just needs to get things rolling…
    Um chuka chu-ka kind of music is not difficult to conduct..just allow great singers to fill in the holes…and let it happen. Give the singers some breathing room…and let the cast carry the day. This is not Tosca, Butterfly, or later Verdi, where subtle rubato and quick tempo and meter changes make all the difference..this is balls to the wall dramatic bel canto where the voice is the thing. Diva and Divo stuff. The “usual suspects” are generally not up to it.