Cher Public

War, what is it good for?

Verdi’s ninth opera, Attila, offers all the noisy music from Nabucco without a “Va pensiero” to cherish. 

This recording is of the wonderful Peter Konwitschny production in the summer of 2013 at Theater an der Wien.  (I was there for the prima.)  The premise was that man is a warmonger from birth till death.The opera began with everyone dressed as kids who were playing war games using household items: a colander for a helmet, whisks and toilet brushes, pots and pans as weapons.

Then it moved to an office atmosphere with everyone in suits and dresses and cell phones and office equipment and furniture used as weapons. Finally, in the funniest bit of the evening, the entire cast reappeared bald and grey, tottering onstage using walkers and a wheelchair and used these as weapons.  I think Attila got bashed to death with crutches and Odabella keeled over in her wheelchair.

The cast played along with gusto and it was truly an unforgettable night, and musically quite terrific.

  • QuantoPainyFakor

    Surprising as this remarkable excerpt is for old eyes, my reaction is at least this stage director really knew the score. Gusto indeed. I hope the entire telecast will surface in the usual places soon.

  • QuantoPainyFakor

    Here is the video of the William Friedkin production that Friedkin walked out on when he learned that he would not be able to have sufficient rehearsals and the opportunity to work with the singers actually scheduled for the performances. I think they took his name off the cartellone.

    • Friedkin walked away from a “Hoffmann” at Theater an der Wien a few years ago when he refused to take any recommendations from the artistic staff. After its (lousy) opening, they basically tore the whole production apart, the Intendant totally re-staged it (to great success), and Friedkin’s name was never mentioned again. Incidentally, Damrau did all four heroines in the post-Friedkin performances for which he opted for four singers.

      • Petersen sang Giuletta? That’s quite surprising!

    • Lindoro Almaviva

      Baffes me that in the 21st century there are STILL productions of early Verdi where the cabalettas are sung “come scritto”, not one piece of ornamentation to be heard. Great singing but my god, what a snooze that Odabella act 1 aria was.

  • grimoaldo2

    Thank you for providing this so I can enjoy the “noisy” music without having to watch the very silly production, judging by your description and the clips of it posted here.

    • La Cieca

      The important thing is that you never allow yourself to be defiled by something you prejudge as “silly.”

    • I was at the premiere, and there was not one single “boo” during or after the performance, unlike the Wiener Staatsoper audience which protested so loudly that it drowned out the music on several occasions at Konwitschny’s “Don Carlos.” It was a spectacular, unforgettable evening.

      I was in touch with an Italian Verdi specialist and told him about the production in detail, thinking he would reject the concept. Instead he replied, “’Attila’ needs all the help it can get!” It was a huge success here – with press and public – and you can hear the enthusiasm from the audience at the curtain calls.

      I wonder if Netrebko might enjoy Konwitschny’s “Aida,” which takes place entirely in a white room with one small red sofa and never more than six people onstage at once…

  • Carlo

    Just a big s…it!!!! Vergogna

  • I am in love with Konwitschny whose Gotterdammerung (phenomenal live, the video gives a good idea) and Lohengrin are two of the greatest productions of opera I’ve ever seen. And this Attila (not complete on YouTube as far as I can find) seems fabulous — the chunks there are long enough to make the point.

    La Cieca has been inspired lately with his titles. “War, what is it good for?” is a quote from one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes. Elaine, desperate to impress a stern and world famous Russian novelist, tells him that “War, what is it good for” was Tolstoy’s first title for War and Peace, evoking rage in the old gentleman.

    And for another, “See the Pyramids along the Nile”, is the first line of the great quasi country song, You Belong to me. Although I am sure La Cieca is nowhere near my age (I am 345 years old) it beings back a sweet period in life where it was always on the AM radio as sacrificial lambs prepared for nun S&M (also known as elementary school). Although my mother LOVED Jo Stafford’s version, creating some dissension since many of those around didn’t understand what the very greatest Jo was singing (she wasn’t as calm as Jo, but then, I was in one of “those” high schools before I met anyone who was) but my favorite of this particular song is the greatest Patsy Cline. I can just imagine halcyon days on the bayou sippin’ on cokes and listnin’ to the juke box:

    And here’s Jo, just for the hell of it.

    • Did Jonathan and Darlene Edwards ever have a go at it?

      • Luvtennis

        Apropos of absolutely nothing I must confess a secret love for Felicia Saunders’ version of September Song. Does that make me a bad person? I listened to a lot of Jo Stafford because I had confused her with Saunders. So bad and stupid. Lovely singer.

      • Donna Annina

        We have the entire collection! Only someone with consummate artistry could sing a quarter-tone sharp like she did. When I was a kid, I had a friend whose parents played Jonathan and Darlene during their cocktail parties. According to my friend, the guests couldn’t get enough--of the music.

    • Porgy Amor

      I saw something funny involving this Attila on a popular social-media site a few years ago.

      Some people, mostly of a certain generation and outlook, were trashing it on the basis of a couple of YouTube clips, and the young tenor who sings Uldino joined the discussion. He said he had had a blast working on it, and would love to work with Konwitschny again.

      I liked to see that, because I so often read variations of “I feel sorry for the poor singers!” and this is presumptuous. People can like or not like things and say so, but I’d never imagine hundreds of people all over the world, of different temperaments, backgrounds, and generations, would have all of my theatrical likes and dislikes.

      Also, mrsjohnclaggart — when I saw you were moving in the direction of “You Belong To Me,” and I saw the great Stafford’s name a few lines below, I was primed to add, “Hard as she is to beat, my favorite recording of that song is Patsy Cline’s.” You saved me the trouble. I have listened to it countless times, but I am happy to make it “countless plus one.”

  • QuantoPainyFakor

    Here’s a little more. Peter Konwitschny is the son of the esteemed conductor Franz Konwitschny. Gives a whole new meaning to Attila’s camp.

  • Zac

    The photo that accompanies this post looks like it could be from the operatic version of “Animal House.” Ooh — there’s an idea!

  • grimoaldo2

    I certainly very much enjoyed listening to this performance (although I regretted the omission of cabaletta repeats), oh how I **love**every note of the the music of many these early Verdi operas, thank you for posting it.
    I have enjoyed Ana Lucreczia Garcia in youtube vids etc of Verdi operas,operabase does not show any engagements after last year for her
    I wonder if she is still singing?
    She is in the fabulous I Masnadieri that I have posted here before
    15,695 views, it says ,and probably about 1,000 of them are by me.