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Verdi, Giuseppe: Attila (1846)
Act 2: Recitative, cavatina and cabaletta, "Tregua è cogl'unni… Dagli immortali vertici…È gettata la mia sorte" (Ezio)

Roger Pines, Dramaturg, Lyric Opera of Chicago
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Aria Talk1/1/2009

Editor's Note: Aria Talk focuses not on the tried-and-true pieces you undoubtedly already know, but on somewhat off-the-beaten-track arias. The hope is that this music will prove a refreshing musical and interpretive change not only for you, the performer, but also for those hearing you in auditions.
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Baritones don't get more macho than Ezio in Attila. This Roman general is a wonderfully assertive figure, and playing him will allow you to pour forth all the power at your command, singing up a storm in typically rousing early Verdi style.

Aquileia has been conquered by Attila the Hun. His enemy, Ezio, who is encamped near Rome, receives a letter from his city's Emperor Valentinian. In the recitative, we hear that the letter is an order for Ezio's return, since Rome now has a truce with Attila. Clearly Ezio loathes the Emperor; he anticipates saving his country from the man he considers a "faint-hearted, impotent slave." The aria shows his longing for the glory days of Rome, exemplified by the heroes of earlier generations — his city has become an "unrecognizable, worthless corpse." Your audition should proceed right to the cabaletta, skipping the "bridge" passage (some Huns arrive, inviting Ezio to dinner in Attila's tent; among them is the disguised Aquilean knight Foresto, who takes Ezio aside to explain that Attila will be killed that evening, and that Ezio should have his army ready). Ezio jubilantly declares in the cabaletta that he's ready for war, and that if he falls in battle, all Italy will weep over the death of the last Roman.

The recitative is "standard" vigorous early Verdi, ending with a fine rise to high G. From the start you should be giving the text detailed attention, while projecting Ezio's purposefulness and his direct, no-nonsense manner of expressing himself. The aria could have been late-period Donizetti (who, in fact, had had his last opera premiered only five years previously). You need impressive breath control for Ezio's two voicings of the gloriously grand-scale phrase beginning with the words "Roma un vil cadavere." The potentially thrilling cabaletta is one of Verdi's most barnstorming episodes for baritone, but it works only if given the essential rhythmic punch throughout. Sherrill Milnes, who brought this scena back into circulation, was celebrated for interpolating a high B-flat at the final cadence. If you've got it, by all means do the same!

Score: Ricordi
Recording: To hear the complete opera: Sherrill Milnes (Philips, CD); Giorgio Zancanaro (Opus Arte, DVD); to hear just the aria: Igor Gorin (in "Legendary Baritones," Nimbus Prima Voce, CD)
Timing: 5'45" (includes only one verse of the cabaletta)
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