Within the Verdi canon, there is a single title role for bass: Attila the Hun. Orlin Anastasov’s distinctly Slavic black diamond of a voice wraps the so-called “Scourge of God” in primordial grandeur that verges on the mythic. The instrument is huge but hard and lean, with an edge less like Toledo steel than battle-tested flint, slightly chipped. And it slashes with dreadnought ferocity—dreadnought, that is, until divine intervention (first a dream, then the pope) has Attila quaking in his boots. There, Anastasov lets the sound go ashen. As his heart sinks, so does yours.
Over the past decade, this Attila has cut a swath through music capitals from London to Rome to St. Petersburg, but the performance documented here may well rank as his sentimental favorite. Filmed outdoors before the gloomy fortress of Tsarevets in Anastasov’s native Bulgaria, the show makes up for rough edges with raw energy. As the warlike Odabella, Radostina Nikolaeva rocks satin evening gowns and a dinky rhinestone tiara yet manages to cut a flaming heroic figure. For swords and sandals, look to Ventselav Anastasov, Orlin’s suave baritone brother, as the Roman schemer Ezio. Apart from the historic stonework, the scenic elements are on the flimsy side, but from time to time the cameras, the fog, and the lights conjure up vistas fit for Game of Thrones.
Attila is available for streaming on the Opera Vision Web site through June 19
Matthew Gurewitsch writes about opera and classical music for AIR MAIL. He lives in Hawaii