Un ballo in maschera, Opera by G. Verdi
When Giuseppe Verdi began working on Un ballo in maschera, he anticipated difficulties. The libretto’s focus on the murder of King Gustav III of Sweden (based on a true assassination) did not sit well with the censors, and the original Naples production had to be shifted to Rome’s Teatro Apollo. The opera had its successful debut performance there on 17 February 1859, over two years after Verdi had received the commission for the piece. Frustrating as it was, Un ballo in maschera bears all the signs of Verdi’s dramatic and musical genius, as guests of Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence will see.
The story of the regicide against Gustav III had already been written for the stage by Eugène Scribe and set by Daniel Auber in 1833. Verdi worked with librettist Antonio Somma to create a fresh take on the well-known story. The topic was more than sensitive and painful: Gustav had been killed a little more than half a century earlier. During the opera’s initial rehearsals, there was an attempt on the life of Emperor Napoleon III. After prolonged legal battles and disputes with the censors, Verdi and Somma moved the opera’s events to colonial Boston in order for the Roman production to move forward.
Un ballo in maschera thus tells the story of the assassination of Riccardo, Count of Warwick near Boston, Massachusetts. The count finds himself in a deadly love triangle with his secretary and close friend Renato and his wife Amelia, whom the count loves secretly. The fortune teller Ulrica makes the ominous prediction that the plot against Riccardo will succeed, and he will be killed by the next person who shakes his hand. The count laughs the premonition off and confidently takes his confidant Renato’s hand. How will the two best friends end up at odds so great they cause a murder? The mystery awaits you, along with Verdi’s dramatic and titillating score, on the stage of Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino!