Attila, Stage Design
The Metropolitan Opera, New York, New York, USA
Project 2008, realization 2009–2010; Premiere 23 February 2010

Verdi‘s Attila captures a crucial moment in the history of Italy when an old world – the world of ancient Rome – collapses, making room for new energies that fuel a new world rising out of the ruins. Verdi wrote his opera in the middle of the 19th century, another crucial moment when the lands of Italy, disunited since antiquity, began to take shape as a nation.

In designing the stage set, we did not focus on the potential historical analogy between the decline of ancient Rome and the rebirth of Italy as a nation, but rather on the theme of destruction as a prerequisite for renewal. In close alignment with Verdi, we chose two images that function in stark mutual contrast: the rubble and ruins of a devastated city in the prologue and an impenetrable forest in acts one, two, and three.

Both images rise vertically in front of the audience like three-dimensional pictures, whose depth is implicitly palpable but not really physically accessible. The singers and actors do not have much space at their disposal so that Pierre Audi’s production focuses primarily on the singing and underplays the theatrical gesture. Both sets could date from any historical epoch: they are contemporary, evoking pictures from the daily news or the Internet, but they are also reminiscent of times past, like pictures of archaeological excavations. Miuccia Prada, with whom we also worked on the stage set, has created similarly ambivalent costumes that cannot be ascribed to a specific epoch.

The lighting was not to resemble natural light but to appear technical and artificial as in a hospital, an explosion or light seen through the lens of a low-light camera in nocturnal military operations. Changes in lighting generate ambivalent moods, especially in the forest, which remains in place for two acts until the end of the opera. The effect may be of great beauty, but also eerie and inescapable, as it must have looked to Hansel and Gretel in the fairytale or, in the real world, to the Roman legionaries of old in the forests of Germania or the American troops in Vietnam.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2010


Herzog & de Meuron Team:
Partners: Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron
Project Manager: Claudius Frühauf
Project Team: Kornelia Gysel (concept phase 2008)

Metropolitan Opera, New York, USA

Scenes and Costumes:
Herzog & de Meuron and Miuccia Prada

In Collaboration with:
Conductor: Riccardo Muti, MET debut
Director: Pierre Audi, MET debut
Set and Costume Designers: Herzog & de Meuron and Miuccia Prada, both MET debut
Light Designer: Jean Kalman
Associate Costume Designer: Robby Duiveman, MET debut

MET Production Team:
General Manager: Peter Gelb
Assistant Stage Directors: Gina Lapinski, Paula Williams
Chorus Master: Donald Palumbo
Musical Director: James Levine
Musical Preparation: Jane Klaviter, Joseph Colaneri, Howard Watkins, Speranza Scappucci, Jonathan Kelly
Stage Band Conductor: Jeffrey Goldberg
Children’s Chorus Director: Anthony Piccolo

Technical Director: John Sellars, Metropolitan Opera NYC
Technical Assistant: Paul Masck, Metropolitan Opera NYC
Prompter: Jane Klaviter
Scenery and Properties: Constructed and painted by Metropolitan Opera Shops
Costumes Construction: Das Gewand, Dusseldorf, Germany; Ton Joling; Met Costume Shop
Wigs: Metropolitan Opera Wig Department
Met Styles: Sonya Friedman

Cast (In order of vocal appearance):
Attila, King of the Huns: Ildar Abdrazakov
Uldino, Attila’s Slave: Russell Thomas
Odaballa, Lord of Aquileia’s Daughter: Violeta Urmana
Ezio, Roman General: Giovanni Meoni
Foresto, Knight of Aquileia: Ramón Vargas
Leone, Roman Bishop: Samuel Ramey


Gerhard Mack, Herzog & de Meuron: Herzog & de Meuron 2005-2007. Das Gesamtwerk. Band 6. Edited by: Gerhard Mack. Basel, Birkhäuser, 2018.

Gerhard Mack, Herzog & de Meuron: Herzog & de Meuron 2005-2007. The Complete Works. Volume 6. Edited by: Gerhard Mack. Basel, Birkhäuser, 2018.

Luis Fernández-Galiano: Attila y Tristán, la Imaginación romántica. Attila and Tristan, the romantic Imagination.

In: Luis Fernández-Galiano (Ed.). Arquitectura Viva Monografías. Herzog & de Meuron 2005-2013. Vol. No. 157/158, Madrid, Arquitectura Viva SL, 09.2012. pp. 6-11.

Helena Matheopoulos: Miuccia Prada. Attila.
In: Fashion Designers at the Opera. London, Thames & Hudson, 2011. pp. 98-111.

Anthony Tommasini: Dividing and Conquering, but felled by Love.
In: Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. (Ed.). The New York Times. Vol. No. 54962, New York, The New York Times Company, 25.02.2010.