Another of Verdi’s political operas with a revolutionary theme, this work, based on the libretto of the French playwright Eugène Scriba, had to undergo major revisions under the pressure of Italian censors when it was written. At the National Theatre, however, the “Swedish version” of the work is being staged, under the baton of young director Dominik Beneš.
Swedish King Gustav III holds a masked ball, to which Amelia, the wife of the monarch’s secretary Renato, is also invited. Gustav blames himself for being in love with her because Renato is a devoted friend, who has also revealed a plot against the monarch. Soon the king learns about fortune teller Ulrika, who is supposed to be banished from the country. In disguise, he goes to see her, but before that, in a hiding place, he hears Amelia confessing her unhappy predicament of being in love with him. Eventually, he meets Ulrika, in order to test her. She says that the one who squeezes his hand first is the murderer. Renato appears on the scene and squeezes his right hand; the fortune-teller appears to be untruthful to the king. But when Gustav and Amelia meet at midnight, Renato discovers their feelings and at first wants to punish his wife. But then they he joins the conspirators and decides to murder the king…
Despite the historical setting, Beneš examines above all the timelessness of the love triangle, in special circumstances: the victim is the king himself. He is determined to send Renato and Amelia to England to save their marriage from his consuming passion. The masked ball is characterised by carefree extravagance, enhanced by the wonderful costumes of an unspecified period, which border on classicality and playful innovation. Such factors merely conceal the storm of emotions that culminate in the last aria of the king, who is stabbed. A very dramatic work, filled with live psychological portraits, A Masked Ball appeals to the modern operagoer like few other works but does not sacrifice traditional Italian opera singing. Even if you are not an opera expert, this work will create an impression.
The three-act opera is performed in the original Italian with English and Czech subtitles, and features the Choir and Orchestra of the National Theatre.