Opera Scotland

Ballo in maschera Un ballo in maschera; A Masked Ball

Music

Giuseppe Verdi (born Le Roncole, 10 October 1813; died Milan, 27 January 1901)

Libretto

Antonio Somma

Source

Libretto Gustave III, ou Le bal masqué (1833) by Eugène Scribe, set by Auber.

 

Premières

First Performance: Rome (Teatro Apollo), 17 February 1859.

First Performance in UK: London (Lyceum - English Opera House), 15 June 1861.

First Performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 6 November 1875.

Scottish Opera première: Glasgow (King's Theatre), 25 April 1975.

 

Background

The history of Ballo is distinctly confusing, because of the difficulties encountered by Verdi with the censorship authorities in Naples, where he had planned to perform it. The original scenario, derived from Scribe, used as a basic theme the assassination of the Swedish King Gustavus III in 1792. Naples, being still a monarchy, found this concept unacceptable, and the plot was reworked to avoid regicide. The version eventually premiered in Rome, and which held the stage for a century or more, was relocated to Boston in the era of British colonialism, a ludicrous device which handicapped performances of the work in Britain until the Swedish setting could be restored. At Covent Garden, this was done in a 1952 staging by Gûnther Rennert. A more famous one, by Göran Gentele for the Stockholm Opera, came to Edinburgh in 1959.

A further alternative has been adopted, at least by O'Mara and Carl Rosa in the twenties, and by Glasgow Grand in 1957 - to relocate the work to, of all places, Naples under Spanish rule. Riccardo becomes 'Duke of Olivares and Governor of Naples', with all other characters being variants on the Boston version.  Amelia becomes Adelia, Oscar becomes Edgar. Sam and Tom are renamed Andrea and Marco.

 

Main Characters (with American version names in italics)

Count Ribbing, a conspirator Sam (bass)

Count Horn, a conspirator Tom (bass)

Oscar, a page (soprano)

Gustavus III, King of Sweden Riccardo, Earl of Warwick (tenor)

Count Anckarstroem, his friend Renato (baritone)

Mam'zell Arvidson, a fortune-teller Ulrica (mezzo-soprano)

Amelia, Anckarstroem (Renato)'s wife (soprano)

 

Plot Summary

At the Swedish Court (Government House in Boston) a plot is afoot to assassinate the King (British Colonial Governor). This plot is let by Counts Ribbing and Horn (Sam and Tom). The King (Governor)'s closest friend is his secretary, Count Anckarström (Renato). Unfortunately the monarch is also in love with his friend's wife, Amelia.

The King is petitoned to expel a woman accused of witchcraft, who has set up as a fortune-teller by the harbour. Not believing in such things, he disguises himself as a sailor and goes to put her ability to the test. He laughs off Mam'zell's prediction that he will be killed by the next person who shakes his hand - who turns out to be Anckarström. Later that night, Amelia, advised by Mam'zell, looks for a herb to use in a potion. She meets the King, but their assignation is interrupted by Anckarström, who is persuaded to escort this mysterious disguised lady back to town. Intercepted by the conspirators, Anckarström is infuriated to discover that this lady is his own wife. He joins the conspiracy, and is nominated to be the assassin at a ball to which all are invited. As he prepares for the ball, the King decides to put further temptation beyond his reach by sending Anckarström and his wife on a diplomatic mission. When the ball is in progress, however, he is killed by his friend, but lives long enough to assure everyone of Amelia's innocence. He forgives the conspirators as he dies.

The Cast

Amelia
 wife of Anckarström
Anckarström
 friend to the king (Renato)
Christian
 a sailor (Silvano)
Count Horn
 a conspirator (Tom)
Count Ribbing
 a conspirator (Sam)
Gustavus III
 King of Sweden (Riccardo)
Lord Chief Justice
 
Mamzell Arvidson
 a fortune-teller (Ulrica)
Oscar
 page to Gustavus
Servant
 to Amelia

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