Un ballo in maschera, Opera by G. Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi was in his element when it came to combining political thrillers with matters of the heart. His signature opera Un ballo in maschera is no exception. An assassination plot combines with a love triangle, fused together by Verdi’s impeccable sense of musical dramatism and engaging storytelling. Armed with the experience of over 20 operas, many of them already major hits, the Maestro delivered one more masterpiece on 17 February 1859 when Un ballo in maschera premiered at Rome’s Teatro Apollo. This season, Teatro Filarmonico in Verona revives the legendary Verdi opera.
Un ballo in maschera, or A Masked Ball in English, is based on Eugène Scribe’s original libretto for Auber's opera Gustave III, ou le bal masqué. Since the central theme of the source text was regicide against a European monarch, Verdi and his librettist Antonio Somma were forced to make major changes to please the royal censors. Thus, the plot was eventually set in 17th-century Boston, then still a British colony, and the target of the murderous plot was not the king but the royal governor in the American colony, Riccardo. He shares a secret passion with Amelia, the wife of his secretary and confidante Renato. Revolutionaries Tom and Samuel are plotting to assassinate Riccardo and Renato warns him of the grave danger, but the governor is undisturbed. By chance, his duties lead him to meet the fortune-teller Ulrica who confirms he will be assassinated – and by none other than his faithful secretary. Both men are equally perplexed by this unlikely turn of events, but the revelation of their love triangle with Amelia is about to change their relationship irreversibly.
Verdi’s musical approach to Un ballo in maschera is emblematic of his mature style. The arias, duets and ensembles are meticulously crafted, while rich instrumental passages help move the action along. From its almost merry beginning to its tragic end, the opera is a roller-coaster of finely tuned compositional work that once again affirms Verdi’s place in the operatic pantheon. Verona’s Teatro Filarmonico celebrates the Maestro’s legacy.