Sunday, October 5, 2014

Verdi's Masked Ball Returns to S.F. Opera

Julianna Di Giacomo (Amelia) Photo by Cory Weaver
by Rodney Punt

It was the closest Giuseppe Verdi’s ambitions would ever take him to an operatic King Lear, but he had to drop that project for a more feasible one.

Verdi’s masterpiece of misplaced intentions, A Masked Ball (Un ballo in maschera) opened at the San Francisco Opera on Saturday night in a lavish, if dated, period production, last mounted here in 2006. John Conklin’s costumes, worthy of a Zeffirelli extravaganza, go back to the 1977 era of Kurt Herbert Adler. If the production seemed deja vu, the work remains fresh and unhackneyed, a tragedy unique in the Verdi canon, with human frailties but no real evildoers.
The action has a king’s misplaced love for the wife of his best friend leading to expected tragedy, but it is the manner of the story’s treatment that explores new shadings of human understanding with a dose of Shakespearean jest (left over from Lear?), keeping the tone on a lighter plane than the story’s ill-fated conclusion might suggest. With moods switching on a dime, Masked Ball foreshadows Verdi’s last two Shakespeare operas. Call it a tragedy with comic relief. 
Read full review on San Francisco Classical Voice.

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