Un ballo in maschera


Libretto by Antonio Somma

Stage Director – Dmitry Bertman
Music Director – Vladimir Ponkin
Set and Costume Designers – Igor Nezhny and Tatiana Tulubieva
Light Designer – Damir Ismagilov
Stage Choreographer – Edwald Smirnov

Playing time – 2 hours 15 minutes (one intermission)
Premiere – September 5,2013
Language of performance – Italian, Russian subtitles

A political thriller or a love opera? Magnificent "Un Ballo In Maschera" (“A Masked Ball”) by G.Verdi, staged by Dmitry Bertman, is again being exclusively performed in "Helikon-Opera"! In Moscow "Un Ballo In Maschera" is presented only in our theatre, although it is one of the most popular operas in the world. It has everything that can attract the modern audience: a thrilling plot, the expressiveness of the vocal parts, marvellous music, art of creating ensembles.... It is no coincidence that this opera by G.Verdi is said to be the most melodramatic of all his melodramas.

The assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden at the ball in 1792 formed the basis of several dramas at the same time. Later Verdi wrote the script out of one of them, and the author of the libretto was a Venetian writer Antonio Somma. For the record, none of Verdi's operas was censored like "Un Ballo In Maschera": the authors even had to change the plot, and Gustav was replaced by a mythical Governor of Boston who was murdered by his secretary. Verdi went for it to save the opera.

For Director Dmitry Bertman the opera "Un Ballo In Maschera" is about two passions, two “drugs” which are people corrupted by: power and love. The intrigue is based on political conspiracy, and love becomes a bargaining chip. Love drama, witchcraft, betrayal and bloody revenge... It is all mixed up in a furious whirlwind of emotions!


Before “Un ballo in maschera” Giuseppe Verdi had written in average not less than one opera per year — “sixty years of hard labor”, according to his own words. Being in constant search for new plots, the composer paid attention to opera “Gustave III, ou Le bal masque” by Daniel Auber (1833). Its librettist Eugene Scribe was the leading French play writer of his days and had no equal for voluminosity. On 19 September 1857 Verdi mentioned the “Gustave” in the letter to a Neapolitan musical critic (and concurrently the Secretary of Teatro di San Carlo) Vincenzo Torelli: “The drama is grandiose and majestic — it’s beautiful”. By that moment Antonio Somma had been already working upon the Italian lyrics of the new opera on commission from Verdi.

At that stage the difficulties with the censorship had already began. The tamperer killing the king — there was nothing more rebellious that time. The European monarchs were afraid of assassination, that’s why the composer was immediately forced to change the country and the title of the main character. Verdi sent to Naples a new variant of the libretto titled “Una vendetta in domino” and soon Torelli informed him, that the censorship approved it. On 14 January 1858 (by coincidence — the day of Felice Orsini’s attempted assassination of Napoleon III) the author arrived in Naples with the completed score. But there was a surprise for him: as it turned out, “Una vendetta in domino” had been strictly prohibited by the censorship, but the administration of Teatro di San Carlo concealed it from Verdi, because otherwise they’d had to pay the forfeit and lost a new opera, deranging the carnival season. That’s why they preferred to inform the composer on the spot and to persuade him to adapt the new music for new libretto titled “Adelia degli Adimari”, written by one of their censors. Verdi refused flatly. The theatre workers locked the score away and tried to take the author into custody in order to force him either surrender the opera or compensate San Carlo for all the losses. In his turn the musician applied to court, representing the both variants of the libretto with detailed review of all the inconsistencies of “Adelia”. 

It is difficult to say, in what way this court process would run, but the Neapolitans, having known the reason, why the new Verdi’s opera hadn’t been produced so long, took to the streets. Day by day the city riots became hotter, so Ferdinand II, the king of the Two Sicilies, being afraid of the riots, ordered to return the score to the composer and to release him from Naples. In late April he finally left for Civitavecchia. Meanwhile the impresario of the Roman Theatre “Apollo” Vincenzo Iacovacci had already been making efforts on the Verdi’s new composition. Local censorship made many remarks, but the situation was simpler due to the fact, that the Scribe’s play about Gustave had already been performed in Rome in production by a well-known dramatic troupe of Dondini (one of its members was Tommaso Salvini famous for his roles of Othello and Hamlet). As a result of hard work by Iacovacci, Verdi and Somma, the libretto was completed and the opera was named “Un ballo in maschera”. Gustave III got the title Earl of Warwick and Governor of Boston. The long-awaited premier took place on the stage of “Apollo” on 17 February 1859.


Act 1
Scene 1

The people are waiting for the entry of Richard, the Earl of Warwick, while the tamperers are negotiating the revenge plans. Richard appears. Oscar shows him the masked ball invitation list. There is Amelia among the invited. She is the wife of Renato, a Richard’s friend and companion, and Richard is secretly in love with her. Renato warns Richard of the cabal. The judge demands to remove Ulrica from the country, who is a fortune-teller. Richard wants to consider the issue personally.

Scene 2
Hiding behind the masks, Richard and his people come to Ulrica. Amelia comes to her too. Richard overhears her talk with the fortune-teller. Ulrica tells the earl, that he will be killed by a friend of his. She also tells him about the tamperers, but Richard pays no attention to it. Ulrica predicts: the earl will be killed by the person, who will be the first to shake his hand. This person turns out to be Renato.

Act 2
Doing as Ulrika has said, Amelia changes her appearance and sets forth to find the magic herbs. Richard follows her, because this is his only chance to make the declaration to his beloved. Suddenly Renato appears and warns Richard of the tamperers’ approaching. Richard has to hide away. He asks his friend to escort the lady without revealing her incognito. But on their way the spouses meet the tamperers and having recognized the unknown lady the tamperers begin to laugh at Renato. The latter invites them to his home the next day.

Act 3
Scene 1

Renato wants to kill Amelia, but she asks him for a moment to say farewell to their son, playing around. The insulted husband changes his mind and decides to exact revenge only on the earl. The tamperers appear. Renato bets his son’s life that from this moment he joints them. They draw lots to choose the Richard’s killer. Amelia with her own hand draws the lot destined for Renato.

Scene 2
Richard decides to refuse his love to his fast friend’s wife and to send Renato and  melia to England. But first he secretly says her farewell at the masked ball. Even  he anonymous warn letter sent by Amelia hasn’t stopped him from doing it.

Scene 3
At the masked ball Amelia warns Richard of danger again. The earl informs the woman about her near departure to England. Renato kills Richard. In his last words Richard swears Amelia’s innocence and forgives his killers. 

Newspapers Corriere Adriatico, Messaggero (27.08.2013) about maestro Fermani's collaboration with Helikon-opera theatre:

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