Star cast for ‘Attila’ on stage from Friday: on the podium Oren, directed by Daniele Abbado. Erwin Schrott, one of the world’s most famous opera singers, makes his debut in the role. The opera from Friday at the Teatro Massimo. Wednesday the antegenerale in favour of Biagio Conte. Children at the opera’ starts: themed workshop in the Sala degli Stemmi on Sunday 21.

He is a star whose fame goes far beyond the boundaries of opera. One of the most famous opera singers in the world, the bass-baritone Erwin Schrott makes his debut in the role of Attila at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo in Verdi’s opera on stage from Friday 19 February (premiere at 8.30 pm). A new production of the Teatro Massimo, Attila, in co-production with the Teatro Comunale di Bologna and the Teatro La Fenice di Venezia, directed by Daniele Abbado and featuring the great Daniel Oren on the podium. Odabella is Svetla Vassileva; Foresto is Fabio Sartori; Ezio is Simone Piazzola. Sets and lights by Gianni Carluccio, costumes by Gianni Carluccio and Daniela Cernigliaro. A great cast for an opera that has been missing from Palermo since 1975 and was first performed in Venice on 17 March 1846. On Wednesday 17 at 6.30 p.m., the antegenerale in favour of the work of Biagio Conte, the lay missionary who works in Palermo to help the homeless, migrants and the poor.

A Venice, that of the first performance, which at that time, under Hapsburg rule, is shot through with revolutionary ferments in the ambitious dream of a united homeland. Attila is a political opera, as in the spirit and poetics of the great composer: the protagonist is the king of the Huns who has just devastated Aquileia and is preparing to sack Rome. Yet it is also a work of subtle psychological introspection, where the characters move driven by personal considerations and passions. Starting with Attila. A complex character, a foreigner, a barbarian, but a bearer of values, suspended between his desire for glory and his love for the slave Odabella, daughter of the defeated sovereign, who at the end of the work will run away from the wedding ceremony and kill him with the same sword he gave her. A troubled ending, considered by some to be dramaturgically imperfect, the result of the change of hands between Temistocle Solera (Verdi’s historic collaborator, who signed the libretto) and Francesco Maria Piave, who revised the ending, privileging the single characters at the expense of the large choral scenes.

Playing the bearded king, daring but human and therefore vulnerable, for the first time in his stellar musical career, is Erwin Schrott, the great Uruguayan bass-baritone considered to be one of the greatest exponents of Mozart’s major roles (Don Giovanni, Leporello and Figaro) and acclaimed in theatres all over the world. An absolute star, who – with a disc dedicated to tango – has also experimented with territories far removed from opera. He has triumphed in theatres such as La Scala, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Paris Opera, the Washington National Opera, the Wiener Staatsoper, the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Los Angeles Opera and many others.

The director is Daniele Abbado, son of the great conductor Claudio. Aware of facing a difficult challenge. ‘A political opera,’ he says, ‘in which we witness a total overturning of the usual categories. What should be the foreigner, the enemy, the barbarian, is instead the man bearer of refined thought. He speaks of the people, of justice, of God, of the soul. While Ezio is a corrupt general who makes an attempt at mutiny, Foresto a weakling who makes intrigues, Odabella a very interesting character, who carries within herself her murdered father. The Italians are the refugees who have lost everything, who escape and think about the foundation of a new civilisation. We are in the years when the Unification of Italy is still to be done. The fact is that the year following the first performance, no less than fifteen theatres staged it, and the public was inflamed with patriotic sentiments’.

Some verses are clearly written under the influence of Manzoni’s Risorgimento compositions, such as Foresto’s cabaletta in the Prologue: ‘Dear fatherland, already mother and queen/ Of mighty and magnanimous sons/ Now ruins desert and ruin/ On which reigns silence and squalor…

It is no coincidence that at the first performance of Attila in Palermo in November 1854 (Real Teatro Carolino), the Bourbon censors intervened on the libretto, censoring the political theme and any reference to the final regicide. The opera is staged under the title Gli Unni e i Romani (The Huns and the Romans), the protagonist is no longer Attila, but the Hun commander Bleda.
On the podium of the Teatro Massimo is the Israeli conductor Daniel Oren, who began his career thanks to the great Leonard Bernstein, who in 1968 chose him, just thirteen years old, as the soloist voice in his Chichester’s Psalms on the occasion of the inauguration of Israel Television. But it was actually his mother who initiated young Daniel, still at an early age, into a comprehensive musical education by studying not only piano and cello, but also singing, harmony and counterpoint.

He went on to further his studies in Europe, devoting himself almost exclusively to conducting. In 1975, he won the prestigious ‘Herbert von Karajan’ competition for young conductors and the starting point of his international career. His participation with Nabucco in the inaugural season of the New Israel Opera in December 1994 was a particularly significant moment: this musical event succeeded in bringing together his passion for the world of opera and his love for his homeland. For a musician like Oren, music represents the best vehicle for peace and tolerance. Oren is artistic director of the Teatro Verdi in Salerno, where he conducts many titles during the opera season. He is also a regular guest in Paris, at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London as well as in Tel Aviv, Verona, Florence, Madrid, Cologne and Barcelona.

Attila is the second opera of the Teatro Massimo’s 2016 opera season, an opera that comes after the triumphant Götterdämmerung directed by Graham Vick. As Angela Fodale writes in the programme, in Wagner “an individual drama unfolds against a mythical backdrop with powerfully symbolic connotations; in Verdi an individual drama is set in a historical, political and social context, which is never purely decorative, but determines the events and choices of the characters”.
With Attila starts “Bambini all’opera”, the new project of the Teatro Massimo in collaboration with the association Libero Gioco, dedicated to children from 5 to 10 years old, the first in Italy structured by an Opera Foundation for the entire season. On Sunday 21 (5.30 p.m.), while parents, grandparents or uncles attend the performance in the Sala Grande, the children will experience the opera in a playful, quiet and protected dimension. The opportunity for families to experience theatre together, sharing the same experience, participating in diversified activities but with common registers.

For the children, an aesthetic and creative experience that guides them through the narration of the plot and listening to excerpts from the opera. The activity is entitled “The Courage of Odabella” and is played on the theme of what is frightening, with particular reference to the different and the foreigner (Attila) and the figure of an autonomous and courageous woman (Odabella). For information and reservations 329. 7260846 – 349. 3612353. On Thursday 18th at 6pm, in the Sala Onu of the Teatro Massimo, conference for the presentation of the opera, organised by the Amici del Teatro Massimo association, by Anna Tedesco, in the presence of the director Abbado. Free entrance subject to availability.