Chelsea Opera Group – Verdi’s Attila


Atilla – Clive Bayley
Odabella – Nelly Miricioiu
Foresto – Wynne Evans
Ezio – Jonathan Summers
Uldino – Paul O’Neill
Leone – Mark Beesley

Chorus & Orchestra of Chlesea Opera Group
Andrew Greenwood

Reviewed by: John T. Hughes

Reviewed: 11 March, 2006
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London

When in 1939 Churchill returned to ministerial office as First Lord, the Admiralty sent out the message “Winston is back”. Chelsea Opera Group could have announced “Nelly is back”, for Nelly Miricioiu’s appearance as Odabella in Chelsea Opera Group’s “Attila” was her first performance with the company for a couple of years, and in a role which was new to her.

She has always been an intense and committed contributor, whatever the opera. The role of Odabella is not in the ‘wild’ category that Abigaille and Lady Macbeth inhabit; there is, indeed, an inward-looking aria, ‘Liberamente or piangi’ in Act I in which Odabella remembers her father, killed by Attila’s army. It is an aria which needs strict control as the singer traces the vocal line. Miricioiu kept Odabella’s desire for revenge in check, which did not mean that top notes did not flash out.

The recipient of the hatred, the conquering Attila, one of Verdi’s best bass roles, was sung with relish and success by Clive Bayley, who brought much intelligence, showing that variety of shading and emphasis enhances any vocal assignment. His is not the plushest of bass voices, but he used it convincingly. His big aria, “Mentre gonfiarsi l’anima” was delivered with gusto as he recounted Attila’s nightmare, tempered with gradation of vocal weighting. Bayley gave a worthy interpretation of a role larger than many which he undertakes, impressing in the process.

As Ezio, the Roman general who wishes to rule Italy and seeks Attila’s support, which is withheld, Jonathan Summers, now something of a veteran, showed that he still possesses a voice in good estate and made the most of his fine aria “Daghi immortali vertioi” and its cabaletta.

In the tenor role of Foresto, Wynne Evans was more successful on this Saturday than the Wales rugby side, whose entry on to the pitch he often officially heralds in song. He gave a performance particularly notable for its musicality, employing some impressive quiet singing both in his aria and elsewhere: so much more satisfying than all-out belting. It is pleasing to ear a tenor who does not restrict his singing to unrelieved loudness.

The COG Chorus was again in good voice, and the orchestra, under Andrew Greenwood, was in particularly fine form. Further comment would be superfluous, but much credit must be given to Greenwood, whose feeling for the liveliness of early Verdi contributed greatly to the evening’s enjoyment. Both chorus and orchestra were reduced in number because of the size of Cadogan Hall.

This was my first visit to the hall. The access to the auditorium, up flights of stairs (although there is a lift), is restricted, but once inside one finds comfortable seats, good sight-lines and, from my position in row L in the stalls, very clear acoustics not diffused or smothered by reverberation. One certainly heard the singers very clearly.

It was, therefore, another good effort by the COG, whose next outing in London, also in Cadogan Hall, will be “I Puritani” on 10 June. Barry Banks will sing Arturo.

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