12 August 2022 at 8 p.m. (rain date: 13 August)
Margaret Island Open-Air Stage
Conductor: István Dénes
Featuring the Hungarian State Opera House’s orchestra and chorus
Giuseppe Verdi, the most brilliant of Italian opera's masters, created a fiery, dynamic, complex, and distinct work of art, inspired by Attila the Hun, “the scourge of God”, the most famous of the European Huns’ grand kings. The work’s libretto was written in part by both Temistocle Solera and Francesco Maria Piave. The story is based on Zacharias Werner's 1809 drama Attila, King of the Huns. From the Paris Opera to the Metropolitan, this opera is performed all over the world.
The first performance took place on 17 March 1846, at La Fenice Opera House in Venice. It was first performed in Hungary on 7 July 1972, on the Margaret Island Open-Air Stage. The title role was sung by József Gregor, and the role of Odabella was sung by Éva Marton. The production was directed by Gian Carlo del Monaco and conducted by Lamberto Gardelli.
Now fifty years later, the story of the King of the Huns will be revived on Margaret Island this summer with star vocalists and a unique and stunning spectacle. Attila is an authentic work – fiery, passionate, and rebellious – defying everyday expression and conventional forms.
At the Margaret Island Theater in 2022, the title role will be sung by Gábor Bretz on the world-famous bass baritone, who will make his debut in this role. In 2022, the lead female role of Odabella will be sung by none other than the world-famous Italian soprano Maria Agresta. She is a regular partner of world-renown superstars such as Placido Domingo, Jonas Kaufmann, Francesco Meli, and Ludovic Tézier. As the daughter of the fallen ruler of Aquileia, the soprano playing Odabella is immediately smitten with Attila and gives him her sword in recognition of his bravery.
The director of the performance is András Aczél, who has had many successes on Hungarian opera stages. The costumes and sets are made by Kentaur, who has gained international acclaim for his musical theatrical work. The visual and light designs were made by János Madarász, an expert in this field, and the choreography is the work of János Feledi, one of the well-known choreographers of contemporary Hungarian dance.
Scene 1: The ruined city of Aquileia
Attila and his victorious horde are surprised to see a group of women spared as prisoners of war. Their leader, Odabella, asks why the Huns' women remain at home (Allor che i forti corrono / "While your warriors rush to their swords like lions"). Attila, impressed by her courage, offers a boon and she asks for her sword to avenge the death of her father at Attila's own hand (Da te questo or me concesso / "O sublime, divine justice by thee is this now granted"). The Roman envoy Ezio asks for an audience and proposes a division of the empire: Avrai tu l'universo, Resti l'Italia a me / "You may have the universe, but let Italy remain mine". Attila denounces him as a traitor to his country.
Scene 2: A swamp, the future site of Venice
A boat bearing Foresto and other survivors arrives; he thinks of the captive Odabella (Ella in poter del barbaro / "She is in the barbarian's power!") but then rouses himself and the others to begin building a new city (Cara patria giа madre e reina / "Dear homeland, at once mother and queen of powerful, generous sons").
Scene 1: A wood near Attila's camp
Odabella laments her father and Foresto (Oh! Nel fuggente nuvolo / "O father, is your image not imprinted on the fleeting clouds?") believing the latter to be dead. When he appears, she is put on the defensive, denying any infidelity, and reminding him of the biblical Judith. The couple is reunited: Oh, t'inebria nell'amplesso / "O vast joy without measure")
Scene 2: Attila's tent
Attila awakes and tells Uldino of a dream in which an old man stopped him at the gates of Rome and warned him to turn back (Mentre gonfiarsi l'anima parea / "As my soul seemed to swell"). In the daylight, his courage returns, and he orders a march (Oltre quel limite, t'attendo, o spettro / "Beyond that boundary I await you, O ghost!"). However, when a procession of maidens clads in white approaches, singing a Christian hymn, he recognizes the Roman bishop Leo as the old man of his dream, and collapses in terror.
Ezio has been recalled, after a peace has been concluded. He contrasts Rome's past glory with the child emperor Valentine (Dagl'immortali vertici / "From the splendid immortal peaks of former glory"). Recognizing the incognito Foresto among the bearers of an invitation to a banquet with Attila, he agrees to join forces (E' gettata la mia sorte / "My lot is cast, I am prepared for any warfare" ). At the banquet, Foresto's plot to have Uldino poison Attila is foiled by Odabella, jealous of her own revenge. A grateful (and unsuspecting) Attila declares she shall be his wife, and places the unmasked Foresto in her custody.
Uldino informs Foresto about the plans for the wedding of Odabella and Attila; Foresto laments Odabella's apparent betrayal (Che non avrebbe il misero / "What would that wretched man not have offered for Odabella). Ezio arrives with a plan to ambush the Huns; when Odabella comes Foresto accuses her of treachery, but she pleads for his trust. Attila finds the three and recognizes their betrayal. As Roman soldiers approach, Odabella stabs him with the sword he had given her. The three conspirators cry that the people have been avenged.
Born in Budapest, Gábor Bretz, studied with Stephen Czovek in Los Angeles before returning to Budapest to continue his training first with Professor Albert Antalffy, then at the Béla Bartók High School of Music with Mária Fekete, and later with Erika Sziklai and Sándor Sólyom-Nagy at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music. Gábor has also attended master classes with Julia Hamari, Ralf Doring, Eva Marton and Yevgeni Nesterenko.
He has made his debut at a number of operatic venues abroad, including the title role Der fliegende Holländer at the Passionstheater; Ferrando Il Trovatore at the Royal Opera House. Escamillo/Zuniga Carmen under Gustavo Dudamel at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, and at the Bayerische Staatsoper, the Royal Opera House, the Metropolitan Opera New York, the New National Theatre in Tokyo and the Hamburg State Opera and for the Leipzig Opera.
He sang Sparafucile in Rigoletto for the Vienna Festwochen at the Theater an der Wien, and in Klagenfurt and in numerous performances in the title role of Bluebeard’s Castle with The Berlin Philharmonic, with Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the Oregon Symphony Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Bayerische Rundfunk Orchestra, with the New York Philharmonic at Alice Tully Hall and under Gergiev in Ekaterinburg and Moscow.
His others Scala credits are: First Soldier Salome, Bluebeard Bluebeard’s Castle, the Monk Don Carlo, and Don Basilio Il Barbiere di Siviglia .
His other operatic performances include Antonio Le Nozze di Figaro at the Salzburg Festival, Masetto Don Giovanni at the Komische Oper, Berlin, the title-role in Don Giovanni with Opera Zagreb, and for Opera Australia, the High Priest of Babylon Nabucco for Opéra de Rennes.
He also sang Seneca in L’incoronazione di Poppea in Klagenfurt, Colline in La Bohème at the Royal Opera House; Shaklovity in Khovanshchina at Dutch National Opera; Phillipe II in Don Carlos at the Hamburg State Opera, in a Peter Konwitschny production; Scarpia in Tosca at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna; a staged Verdi Requiem at the Hamburg State Opera; King Heinrich in Lohengrin at La Monnaie, Brussels; Jochanaan in Salome at the Salzburg Festival .
He worked with Maestro Daniel Barenboim, Gustavo Dudamel, Adam Fischer, Ed Gardner, Daniele Gatti, Valery Gergiev, Daniel Harding, Michele Mariotti and Esa-Pekka Salonen. Gábor Bretz has also worked with other eminent conductors including Alain Altinoglu, Philippe Jordan, Kent Nagano, Simon Rattle, Juraj Valčuha and Omer Meir Wellber.
Since graduating from the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, Gábor Bretz’s regular performances at the Hungarian State Opera have included the title-roles in Mefistofele and Le Nozze di Figaro, Leporello and the title-role in Don Giovanni, Banquo Macbeth, Colline La Bohème, Don Basilio Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Escamillo Carmen, Gurnemanz Parsifal, Zaccaria Nabucco, Orestes Elektra, Marcel Les Huguenots, Fiesco Simon Boccanegra and Pogner Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, in addition to Landgraf Tannhauser at the Wagner Festival under Adam Fischer and for the Palace of Arts in Budapest.
He was appointed Chamber Singer of the Hungarian State Opera for the 2012/13 season.
In addition to his operatic appearances Gábor Bretz sings regularly in concert, and his repertoire includes the major oratorios of Bach, Haydn, Mozart (including the Coronation Mass under Helmut Rilling), Rossini, Puccini, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Tippett’s A Child of our Time, Berlioz’s L’Enfance du Christ (under Sylvain Cambreling), and the Verdi Requiem in Budapest with the National Philharmonic under the baton of Zoltan Kocsis.
Awards and recognitions:
Mihály Székely Commemorative Plaque (2022)
Hungarian Artist of Merit (2020)
Ferenc Liszt Award (2013)
Chamber Singer of the Hungarian State Opera (2012/2013)
The top prize at the International Maria Callas Grand Prix in Athens. (2005)
The Cesare Bardelli prize at the Viotti International Singing Competition. (2004)
Winner of several music competitions, she made her debut in 2007.
Her success came after a few years, in 2011, when she performed I Vespri Siciliani at Teatro Regio in Turin conducted by Gianandrea Noseda, with great reviews from public and critics. Since then, she has been invited to sing on the most important stages worldwide.
Highlights include Norma in Tel Aviv, La Bohème (Mimì) at Arena di Verona, in Munich, at San Carlo in Naples, at Teatro Regio in Turin and at Festival Puccini in Torre del Lago, Gemma di Vergy at Teatro Donizetti in Bergamo, Elvira in Don Giovanni at La Scala.
She then sang Il Trovatore in Valencia conduted by M° Zubin Mehta, Carmen in Masada and La Traviata at Berlin Staatsoper.
In 2012 she returned to La Scala with La Bohème, where she obtained a big personal success.
She was higly praised for her performance in the concert version of Giovanna d’Arco at Musikverein in Graz with ORT and she sang Simon Boccanegra in Rome with M° Muti, I Masnadieri and La Bohème in Venice, Verdi’s Messa da Requiem at San Carlo in Naples with M° Luisotti and at Staatsoper in Berlin conducted by M° Baremboim, Oberto Conte di San Bonifacio at La Scala, Otello in Valencia with M° Mehta, La Vestale in Dresden.
She performed La Traviata at Arena di Verona and in Guangzhou, Otello in Zurich and Genoa, a new production of I Puritani at Opéra Bastille in Paris, Il Trovatore at La Scala, La Bohème in Tel Aviv and at Opéra Bastille, Simon Boccanegra (new production) in Dresden conducted by M° Thielemann, the debut at the Royal Opera House, with I due Foscari, conducted by Antonio Pappano.
Maria sang Norma in Zurich conducted by M° Luisi, Turandot at La Scala conducted by M° Riccardo Chailly, Norma in Turin and at the Champs Elysées , Verdi’s Requiem at La Scala under the baton of M° Mehta, La Traviata in Munich, Norma and Il Trovatore in Madrid, her debut at Metropolitan Opera in La Bohème, directed by Zeffirelli, where she came back with Turandot, Turandot at Lyric Opera in Chicago.
Recently she made her debut in Don Carlo at Teatro Real de Madrid, which she sang also in Venice at Teatro La Fenice.
Another debut is in Tosca at Opéra de Paris and Teatro Real de Madrid.
Future engagements include: Otello at San Carlo di Napoli, her upcoming debut in Adriana Lecouvreur at Teatro La Scala, Manon Lescaut at Opéra de Montecarlo.
Maria has won the important prize “Franco Abbiati” in 2014: Italian national critics gave her the prize for Best Soprano.
Besides, she won the prestigious international prize "Luigi Illica".