Attila Synopsis

Verdi's 3 Act Opera

Illustrated London News - Giuseppe Verdi's Attila at Her Majesty's Theatre, London
Restored by Adam Cuerden/Wikimedia Commons

Giuseppe Verdi's 3 Act Opera, Attila, is based on the play Attila, King of the Huns by Friedrich Ludwig Zacharias Werner. Set in mid 5th century Rome, the opera premiered on March 17th, 1846 at the La Fenice Opera House in Venice Italy and tells the story of Attila the Hun and his downfall in Rome. 

Attila, Prologue

Attila the Hun has successfully invaded Italy. In the conquered city of Aquileia, Attila and his warriors celebrate their victory.

A group of captured women is brought in amidst the celebration. Odabella, the leader of the women, shouts to Attila that they will forever be loyal to Italy and will always defend their country. Attila is impressed with her courage and grants her one favor. She asks for Attila's sword, to which he obliges. Odabella declares that she will kill Attila one day with his own sword to avenge the death of her father, who Attila killed earlier while taking over the city. After the women are escorted out of the room, Ezio, a Roman general, arrives to discuss matters with Attila. Attila greets him with respect, calling him a worthy adversary. Ezio proposes a deal that would give Attila the entire Roman empire as long as he retains control of Italy. Attila angrily rejects the offer and tells him that he would rather raze Rome to the ground.

After a raging storm has passed, Foresto, a nobleman, arrives with a group of Aquileian refugees on a distant shore.

Though he worries for his fiance, Odabella, he commits to founding a new city - the future Venice.

Attila, Act 1

Hoping to find the perfect moment to exact revenge, Odabella has remained in Attila's camp, which has now moved closer to Rome. Staring at the clouds, she makes out their shapes to be images of her deceased father and fiance, Foresto, who she believes to be dead.

Suddenly, Foresto emerges from the forest. Confused and upset why she would be staying in Attila's camp, Odabella explains her plan for revenge. Foresto's heart is calmed and the two are happy to reunite.

Late that night, Attila awakens in his tent after having a terrible dream. He recounts his vision that upon entering Rome, and old man warns him to turn around and never come back. When the sun rises, Attila's courage is restored and he resolves to march into Rome. Prior to their departure, a procession of maidens from Rome walks by Attila's camp. Lead by a Roman bishop named Leo, the same words Attila heard in his dreams are repeated. Attila is horrified to see that Leo is the same man from his dream the night before.

Attila, Act 2

Within his camp, Ezio fondly remembers Rome's former glory. He is visited by a group of Attila's slaves, who invite him to a banquet. He arrives at the banquet to see Attila and a group of Roman captains conversing. He immediately recognizes Foresto, who has disguised himself. Foresto pulls Ezio aside and describes his plan to take down Attila. Ezio is delighted by the news and is quick to join Foresto.

When the celebrations during the feast begin, Foresto reveals to Odabella that he has poisoned Attila's goblet of wine.

Feeling cheated of her own revenge, Odabella rushes to Attila's aid, informing him that his wine has been poisoned. Furious, Attila demands to know who poisoned his wine. Foresto steps forward. Before Attila can declare punishment, Odabella asks that he allow her to punish him instead. After all, she is responsible for saving his life. Attila agrees and announces that he will marry Odabella the next day.

Attila, Act 3

Upset at her apparent betrayal, Foresto impatiently awaits for the sounds of the wedding ceremony. He is met by Ezio, who tells him that he has arranged for a group of men to ambush Attila. When the marriage ceremony begins, Odabella quickly departs, having second thoughts. She prays for her father's forgiveness as she's about to marry his murderer. She finds Foresto and divulges the reasons for her actions.

She convinces him that she still loves him and they reconcile. Attila arrives in search of his bride, but when he spots her consorting with Ezio, who begs for control of Italy, and Foresto, the man who tried to kill him, he realizes he has been duped by Odabella. Odabella, Foresto, and Ezio attack Attila, while Ezio's men simultaneously attack Attila's warriors. In the end, Odabella kills Attila with his very own sword as she said she would.

Other Verdi Opera Synopses:

La Traviata
Don Carlo
Il Trovatore