Opera by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto: Temistocle Solera and Francesco Maria Piave, based on the Zacharias Werner‘с drama from 1809 “Attila, King of the Huns”.
World premiere: 17 March 1846, Venice, La Fenice Theatre.
First performance in Bulgaria: 20 June 1976, Burgas.
Attila, King of the Huns – bass
Ezio, a Roman General – baritone
Odabella, daughter of the Lord of Aquileia – soprano
Foresto, a Knight of Aquileia, her fiancé – tenor
Undino, a Young Breton, slave of Attila – tenor
Leone, Old Roman – bass
Place and time of the action: Italy, 452–453.
Square in Aquileia – a Roman town, ruined and burnt down by the Huns. Attila’s warriors are celebrating their victory. In a chariot, pulled by slaves, arrives their leader and sits on a throne made of shields and spears. Attila is struck by the beauty and courage of the captivated Roman Odabella, who was not afraid to talk in front of him about the incredible women in Italy, always ready to fight against the enemies, and then she insisted to have her sword back. The impressed Attila gives Odabella his own sword as present, and she sees in this gesture a sign of destiny: soon will come her time. The young woman wants to take revenge for the death of her father, the Lord of Aquileia, and for her fiancé Foresto, also deceased in the battle with the Huns. From Rome arrive messengers, led by the Roman General Ezio – an old enemy of Attila, who, however, the King of the Huns respects deeply as his worthy adversary. The Roman proposes a peace agreement: let Attila rule the whole world, but let him leave Italy to Ezio. The King of the Huns rejects the proposal and threatens that soon he would conquer the arrogant Rome and punish the Emperor.
Desert island on the Alto river. After a stormy night the clouds get cleared, the fog lifts and the rising sun illuminates the horizon. Several hermits are glorifying the power of God, which has put down the night sea storm. Refugees from Aquileia arrive, led by Foresto – Odabella’s fiancé. He didn’t perish by the siege and is at the head of the Romans, who have saved themselves from Attila, ready to fight for the revival of his fatherland and take revenge on the Huns.
Attila’s camp near Rome. Moon night. The crying Odabella sees in a cloud passing by the images of her dear perished ones – her father and her fiancé. All of a sudden in front of her springs Foresto. The young girl falls into her arms with joy, but he rejects her. The young officer thinks that his beloved was unfaithful to him, if she has voluntarily come in the camp of the enemies. Odabella implores him to kill her, but not to curse her. She reminds his fiancé the story of the Hebrew Judith, who saved Israel from the Babylonians by beheading their leader Holofernes. Odabella has sworn to revenge, and the oppressor has given her by his own his sword in the hands. Foresto begs her beloved pardon and both of them, embraced, vow to die for their fatherland.
Attila‘s tent. The King of the Huns is sleeping, wrapped in a tiger fur, but all of a sudden he jumps out of his bed. In front of him arises a gigantic figure of a white-haired Roman, who stops him in front of the gates of Rome and warns him: for barbarians and pagans there‘s no place in the Eternal city, because this blessed land belongs to God. Attila calls the priests, the leaders and his army – he is ready to defeat the ghost, and the whole world! The battle trumpets answer quite different sounds. Undino lists the tent‘s canopy and Attila sees how from the near-by hills descend Roman children, young women and old men, dressed in white and with palm branches in their hands. Led by the old man Leone, whom Attila saw in his dream, the Roman women and children have risen to defend their city. And from Leone‘s mouth Attila hears once again the fatal warning. Scared to death, the King of the Huns loses consciousness. The Huns are struck – what is this force, which made the powerful Attila for the first time to beg for mercy?
Ezio‘s camp near Rome. The general reminds himself the glory of his city, which now is humiliated, governed by weak and incompetent Emperor – the young Valentinian. A group of Attila‘s slaves arrive with an invitation for a big feast. Among them is also Foresto, who warns Ezio, that tonight the King of the Huns will be killed, and when the Romans see the signal sign – fires lit on the hills, everyone must rise as one to win their freedom. Ezio is rejoicing. Even if he falls dead in this battle, the whole Italy will lament for him – the last great Roman general.
Attila‘s camp in the wood. Everything is ready for the rich feast. The Huns glorify his great General. Attila appears, accompanied by priests and warriors and takes the place of honour. Next to him is Odabella. Under the sounds of trumpets arrive the Romans with Ezio at the head, and Attila greets his noble enemy. Before the beginning of the feast, the druids warn the King to beware of his Roman guests. The priests of the Gauls have seen bad omens in the sky, but Attila doesn‘t pay attention to the prophesies and orders the priestesses to dance and sing. In the height of the celebrations, Foresto discovers Odabella and asks her weather she has succeeded to pour poison into Attila‘s cup. All of a sudden a strong wind sweeps away the fires. Everyone is terrified, but not Attila – the element of nature has only angered him and he orders to light the torches again and the feast to continue. Heated and thirsty, Attila decides to drink to the health of the Highest God of the Huns – Wodan, but in the last moment Odabella stops him and reveals, that there is poison in the cup. Foresto boldly takes upon himself the blame for the attempt and takes out his sword. Of course, he immediately gets arrested, but Odabella begs Attila to deliver the evil-doer to her. She personally would have it out with him! Attila agrees. Moved by Odabella‘s action, he declares in front of everyone, that tomorrow she would become his legal wife. And Rome has to prepare for battle – “the scourge of God” has awaken again. In the turmoil Odabella helps Foresto to escape. The young man swears to take revenge on Attila and on his unfaithful fiancée.
Morning in the wood, which separates the camps of Attila and Ezio. Here Foresto is waiting for Undino, who is also ready to take revenge on the King of the Huns. The young slave will give a signal to Ezio and the Romans will attack, when Attila retires in his tent with his young wife. Foresto suffers for his lost love and curses Odabella, who looks like an angel, but in her heart harbours evil. From Attila‘s camp is heard a festive song – Odabella is being led towards the King‘s tent. She is trying to run away, persecuted by the ghost of her father and all of a sudden she appears in front of Foresto in her magnificent wedding dress and with a crown on her head. The girl begs her beloved to forgive her, but he refuses to believe her. Then Ezio appeals them to forget about jealousy and pain – the time has come to fight. Attila appears. He is amazed to see his beloved among the enemies, with who he was so generous. Her – the slave, he has made his wife; to Foresto – the traitor, he has granted the life; and Ezio – the treacherous Roman, he has saved because of Rome! And all of them are in the plot against him! But Odabella sees next to the nupital bed the stained with blood ghost of her father; Foresto doesn‘t want his life without his fatherland and without his beloved woman; and even Ezio‘s city to be saved, Rome is being despised by the whole world, because it has deserved Attila‘s blood massacre. Hearing the victorious cries of the nearing Roman soldiers, Odabella throws the crown away, she steps in front of Attila and sticks her sword right into his breast. Everybody is rejoicing – at last the Huns are defeated. The Eternal city is saved, and the conquered by Attila tribes and nations are revenged.