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Verdi’s A Masked Ball - 30 April 2017 - Florida Grand Opera, 7:00 pm


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Three years ago, I saw this opera in San Francisco and I must have slept through the first two acts because I remember nothing of this opera except the masked ball in Act III.  In justification, I had just driven eight hours from Crater Lake that day and I was exhausted.  I am glad Florida Grand Opera performed this piece.  I like Verdi, and my favorite opera is Verdi’s Rigoletto, but I was leery of this performance since I slept through the last one.  

Truthfully, the first act is pretty dull.  However, you do have to set the scene.  Gustavo is king of some un-named country who is secretly in love with the wife of his best friend and counselor Count Anckarström.  Count Anckarström is constantly trying to warn Gustavo his life is in danger (Count Ribbing and Count Horn).  Gustavo will hear nothing negative about his subjects since they all love him.

To lighten the atmosphere, Gustavo suggests a visit to the seer Ulrica.  A judge considers her dangerous and wishes to ban her from the kingdom.  The king arrives early in disguise and hears Ulrica tell Amelia that to forget Gustavo and wipe him from her memory, she must pick an herb at the cemetery.  She leaves for the cemetery.  When the rest of the king’s party arrives, Gustavo has Ulrica tell his fortune.  Ulrica fortells his death.  

Gustavo follows Amelia.  Finally, Gustavo breaks down her resolve and she tells of her love for him.  Unfortunately, Count Anckarström has arrived to warn the king of a plot.  Amelia covers her head with a veil and Gustavo makes Count Anckarström to walk her home.  The king leaves reluctantly to save his life from the cabal coming to kill him.  

When the cabal arrives, Amelia’s veil is accidentally removed and Count Anckarström knows it is his wife who met the king in the cemetery.

Later, Count Anckarström, furious with the king, meets with Ribbing and Horn and plot the king’s death. They have Amelia draw their names from an urn and Count Anckarström is chosen to do the deed.

The last act is the ball and no one can find the king at the ball because of his disguise.  Oscar, his secretary, knows the king is in attendance and finally Count Anckarström gets enough information from Oscar to recognize the king.  He shoots the king.  In the death scene, the king admits his love for Amelia but he never betrayed his friendship with Count Anckarström.  He appoints Count Anckarström to an important position and sends him home, pardoned.  He then dies.  

Florida Grand Opera did a pretty good job with this opera.  The staging was better than in other performances this season.  The voices were mostly OK.  In Act I, everyone seemed to be straining to hit their notes and their projection was forced.  In Act II, they seemed to warm up.  

The photograph is from the Florida Grand Opera web site.

© Fred Searcy 2017