Love, murder and betrayal take center stage in Giuseppe Verdis political thriller opera in three acts at the Kennedy Center. The opera is loosely based on the real life murder of Swedish King Gustave III in 1833. Based on the play Gustave III, by French playwright Eugene Scribe.
In 1792, the King of Sweden, Gustav III, was killed, as a result of a political conspiracy against him. He was shot while attending a masked ball and died 13 days later from his wounds. For the libretto, Scribe retained the names of some of the historical figures involved in the conspiracy, and killing at the masked ball. The rest of the play - the characterizations, the romance, the fortune-telling, etc. - is Scribes invention and the opera is not historically accurate.
However, in order to become the Un ballo in maschera which we know today, Verdi's opera (and his libretto) was forced to undergo a series of transformations, caused by a combination of two groups of censorship.
The first group was made up of government employees who looked for anything danerous to the state and public order. The second group was made up of Catholic priests claming to protect moral order. As could be predicted, the censors were outraged at the depiction of a conspiracy and the assasination of a king onstage.
Unlike the main character, the opera survived the political upheaval and has thrived partly due to the glorious musical composition of Verdi.
The actual performance at the Kennedy center was spectacular with Italian tenor Salvatore Licitra and American tenor Frank Porretta sharing the title role. American soprano Susan Neves was thrilling as Amelia and American soprano Monica Yunus portrayal of Oscar was memorable. I was however disappointed with the background scenery which was austere to say the least. Perhaps this was done intentionally so as to not detract from the lyrical music. You decide.
Carmen Ileana Romn writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.