Mutti, Sinopoli, and the Prologue to Attila

Riccardo Mutti, who made his house debut in the Met’s current run of Verdi’s Attila, enjoys a reputation as an insightful conductor of Verdi’s operas. I’ve never been able to understand his high standing as a Verdian. His conducting of the master’s works has always seemed to me to be rigid, overly forceful, and lacking in nuance.

His direction of Verdi’s ninth opera has been greeted with swoons and rapture. It’s hard to understand why Mutti chose Attila for his Met debut. Of course, anything by opera’s Shakespeare is of interest to any serious opera goes, but this is one of the Bear of Bussetto’s lesser efforts. I’ve seen the opera live two times – both with Sam Ramey in his prime at Chicago’s Lyric Opera. Though it has moments suggestive of the great things that lay before Verdi I have not been much taken with it.

The prologue, however, is three minutes pure beauty. Mutti rushes the fragile piece and in general seems to want to get it over as fast as he can. Compare his reading to that of the late Giuseppe Sinopoli. The latter’s rendition soars where Mutti’s plods. All the beauty of the prologue is realized by Sinopoli. He gives it the space it needs. The prologue under Sinopoli takes 20 seconds longer than the brush off it gets from Mutti. Twenty seconds is a lot in a three minute number.  No sense arguing about taste. Both versions are below. Make up your own mind. Mutti does better with the scene where Pope Leo appears than he does with the prelude. This concertato is unalloyed Verdian glory.

Attila Prologue Mutti

Attila Prologue Sinopoli

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3 Responses to Mutti, Sinopoli, and the Prologue to Attila

  1. feliciam says:

    I agree–I’ve always thought Muti was a little overrated, although I think he has good taste in singers (such as Zancanaro, Carlos Alvarez and many others) and I enjoyed his Guillaume Tell a lot on dvd. His conducting does come off as a little regimented and not as passionate or organic-sounding as some other conductors.

  2. Operafilly says:

    This “come scritto” guy is too fast……and I find so many conductors today so slow……trying to make everything Italian sound like Wagner..

  3. Robert Berger says:

    I didn’t get a chance to attend the Met’s new production of this opera, but I recently heard Muti’s
    La Scala recording of it on EMI and previously the DVD of the live performance and enjoyed both very much.
    Muti actually made it seem like much greater music than it seems under other conductors; he gave it a kind of Wagnerian grandeur as well as a Verdian drive and urgency.

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