Sunday, December 18, 2011

Seattle Opera's "Attila" Concept Stirs Up One Canadian

Machine Gun Hun: John Relyea
"A late contender for the title of most yawn-inducing operatic news announcement of the year: 'Production sets barbarian invasion in today's war-torn world.' The work is Verdi's Attila and the run, opening Jan. 14, is at the Seattle Opera. Could there be a more predictable theatrical tactic? Ubiquitous in Europe, modern-dress productions are now depressingly common in North America. Far from bold and innovative, they are ham and eggs, the usual thing. A new production of a 19th-century opera set in the time actually specified by the librettist: This would be the extraordinary choice today. There was a time when companies could argue in favour of updating and other directorial displacement on the grounds that standard stagings of standard repertoire had begun to look tired. But Attila is an early Verdi opera, seldom performed. This is its Seattle Opera premiere. There is no old-fashioned, iconic look from which to depart. Of course, the Seattle Attila could be a good show in spite of the utterly conventional decision to place it in 'today's war-torn world.' Former Opéra de Montréal general director Bernard Uzan directs. John Relyea, a Canadian bass-baritone, takes the title role. Advance publicity photos show our 21st-century Hun holding a machine gun. Not that updating is the only eye-rolling cliché that can be passed off in the opera house as innovation. The much-written about Canadian director Robert Carsen has summoned some dandies for his season-opening new production of Don Giovanni at La Scala." [Source]

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