Of all of Verdi's early works (the Galley operas), Attila has received the most attention in the last several years. Now that we have Ildar Abdrazakov ringing, commanding basso contante who can float words of love as well as command a troop of wild Huns, we can understand the popularity. In America his recent Met debut as Attila in 2010 was widely praised as he encountered the great Ramey on stage as the saintly savior of Rome, Leone. Ildar's voice is smooth, powerful and eminently listenable. He is big of build, handsome of face and could very well lead an invading army. The present recording was made some ten months after the Met engagement, this at the Mariinsky in St. Petersburg. Here the Odabella is Anna Markova a recent member of the Mariinsky roster. She has the range, power and depth needed in this role but lacks polish and brilliance of tone; these will come in time. She does have big sound and could hold her own in the final quartetto with Attila, Foresto her lover and Ezio the Roman commander.(She stabs Attila and in the play stabs herself, but not in the opera). As the pouty, peevish boy lover of Odabella, Foresto, Sergei Skorokhodar has a sweet lyric tenor with just enough heft to hold his own with the other big voiced characters. Finally the baritone part of Ezio, commander of the Roman legions is not quite adequately served by Vladislav Sulinsky. He lacks the heft in his nice baritone voice and looks to be too young to be the experienced commander of the entire Roman legions. I think that with maturity and singing experience he could be a presentable Verdi baritone. However whenever any combination of these four players are singing they are exciting to listen to.
The excellent orchestra and chorus of the Mariinsky are led by Valery Gergiev in this enthusiastic rather than subtle performance. Sets, costumes and Regie are nicely underdone compared to the Met 2010 overreaching production.
There is much reference to Odin, Valhalla and all that Wagner territory stuff. The play from which this opera was taken "Attila, Konig der Hunnen" was by the highly idiomatic, far out German romantic poet Frederich Zacharias Werner. It is full of Norns, Woton (Odin), Fricka, and the whole cast of the Niebelungenlied of the Nordic Sagas. (Attila here is as Ezil) From this rambling Germanic mass, Verdi and librettist Solera (and Piave)have created an opera that is as thoroughly Italian as Chianti and pizza. I highly recommend this version of Attila. There are tunes to whistle and melodies to hum.