“Un ballo in maschera”, the last opera in 2015-16 Season

This rare stage production of Un ballo in maschera, scheduled at the Teatro dell’Opera from 16 to 30 of October 2014 brings us back to the original setting realised by Verdi and rediscovered two years ago by the director Leo Muscato, for the staging of Rigoletto, in the 2014 season of the Teatro dell’Opera. The show marks another important return to the podium of Jesús López-Cobos, who had previously directed the Teatro dell’Opera’s Orchestra in Werther in 2015.

For this new staging of Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, a co-production with the Malmö Opera House, Leo Muscato has approached the work, using an early censored version of the libretto, a story which takes place in eighteenth-century Sweden.

The story tells of King Gustav III of Sweden, patron of culture and theatre, who was killed in 1792 by a group of noble conspirators during a masked ball. This brutal assassination gave to Eugène Scribe the subject for two libretti with a typical romantic inspiration, one of which impressed the libretto written by Antonio Somma and set to music by Verdi.

Initially the work was to be staged at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples with the title Una vendetta in domino. However the Bourbon censorship rejected the subject. The story of a husband who kills his supposed rival, being this the King of Sweden, was considered too outrageous, especially due to the unstable political situation of the Risorgimento. Consequently Verdi decided to move the action from Sweden to Boston, turning the king into a governor. Never as in this case the censor’s accusation was wrong, since this work was not at all dealing with social or political unrest, but it mainly focused on the theme of the impossible love between a man and a woman, who was the wife of the king’s best friend. This classic melodramatic triangle is here enhanced by the setting typical of grand opéra. Various types of characters of different nature move within the framework of a mundane social scene.

The director Leo Muscato was captivated by the story of Gustav III of Sweden, only to discover that the real life of King Gustav was very different from the story that Verdi and his librettist had told. For this reason the director has conceived a staging that brings us back to the Stockholm of 1792, but with a modern twist especially evident in the costumes designed by Silvia Aymonino, inspired to the Pop Art movement of the ’60s and Andy Warhol. It is a story that smacks of a modern fairy tale …

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