Swedish King Assassinated in San Miguel
By Michael Pearl
“I consider Un Ballo in Maschera to be the composer’s major work, his masterpiece.” Such was the gauntlet thrown down by Gabriele Baldini, one of the most stimulating and perceptive of commentators on the operatic scene in the last century, in tribute to Guiseppe Verdi’s score of consummate elegance, purity of musical language, and balance of sparkling insouciance and palpitating romance.
Pro Musica Opera
Un Ballo in Maschera by Guiseppe Verdi
Fri, Feb 19 and Sat, 20, 7pm
Teatro Ángela Peralta
Pro Musica will present two performances of Verdi’s masterpiece on Friday and Saturday, February 19 and 20, at 7pm at the Teatro Angela Peralta. The cast is packed full of extraordinary singers, including Rodrigo Garciarroyo, Eugenia Garza (one of Mexico’s most sought after sopranos), the magnificent bass-baritone Jesús Suaste, and Carla Lopez-Speziale from New York, as well as rising star Alejandra Sandoval, whom we will hear much of in the 2017 season in European opera.
Though the opera is a tragedy, its music is filled with light, laughter, and tear-jerking tunes, and its hero is one of the most appealing parts for tenors in the entire operatic repertoire. Verdi composed the opera in the late 1850s using a libretto based on the real-life assassination of King Gustavus III of Sweden, in 1792 (in an opera house, incidentally!). The premier was planned for Naples. However, the local censors frowned on the depiction of a king being assassinated in his own court. They also took a dim view of Verdi’s major addition to the story: the assassin is an aggrieved husband who finds his wife alone with the king in a compromising position. No matter that Naples was a by-word for low life and licentiousness at the time; in public this would not do!
The censors asked for drastic changes to allow it to be performed, or they would ban it. Fed up with the Neapolitan demands, Verdi decided to move the opera’s debut to Rome, but the Roman censors also frowned on it. To get the opera to the stage, Verdi and his librettist decided to keep their story but change the setting. The opera’s hero became an English count, serving as a colonial governor, and the whole story was moved across the Atlantic to Boston. Apparently, when set in the new world, illicit love and murder were perfectly acceptable—and the censors’ ban was promptly lifted!
For our production we have restored this stirring drama of assignation and assassination to its original Swedish setting although, as you will experience at the Teatro Ángela Peralta, its themes of lust, betrayal, male bonding, and intrigue are universal.
Tickets are on sale through the Pro Musica web site (www.promusicasma.org), at all Pro Musica concerts, the Angela Peralta box office, La Tienda in La Biblioteca Pública, La Conexión (only at Aldama 3), and at the School of Arts at the Instituto Allende, Ancha de San Antonio 22.