Libretto by Antonio Somma and Francesco Maria Piave on Eugene Scribe's play "Gustav III Swedish"
3 hours 10 minutes
Cruel betrayal, fateful prophecies, dreadful death at the hands of a friend during a pompous festivity - the plot of "Un ballo in Maschera" (A Masked Ball) by Verdi comes near modern thrillers in emotional intensity. The opera is based on a true story of a conspiration and assasination of king Gustav the 3rd on a masquerade ball in Swedish opera. Yet, under the pressure of censorship the composer had to change the circumstances: in the libretto royal persons are replaced with public officials, whereas the action is transferred to America. Philosophic myth of Actaeon will be reflected in a new thriller opera by stage director Vyacheslav Starodubtsev and designer Zhanna Usacheva.
King Richard is hosting guests. His enemies Samuel and Tom are among them. Oscar, his page-boy, brings him a list of people invited to the ball, which is to be held soon. One of the guests is Amelia, his secret love; but this passion is vicious, since Amelia is married to Renato, his secretary and friend. He tells Richard about a plot to kill him. Having their clothes changed, they head to Ulrike, a well-known oracle, to have the fortune read.
The oracle is doing magic in her dwelling. Dressed in fisherman clothes, Richard is peeping on her witchcraft. She is predicting wealth and fame to a poor sailor Silvano in front of the public; Richard plays along and plants money and a note on him. All of a sudden Amelia comes up. She stays in private with the oracle. Amelia confesses that she is in love and asks for a potion to cure this vicious passion of her. Richard overhears their talk, while being hidden. The oracle tells Amelia to go at night to the sandlot where the executions take place and to collect the magic grass. As the young lady leaves, Richard asks the oracle to tell his fate. His fortune is to be killed at his friend's hand. Richard doesn't believe her.
Night. Desert field. Dire hills are covered with moonlight. Amelia has come to this place. She is in love with Richard and she needs to get rid of this sinful feeling. Richard appears; he's been spying on her and now he is confessing his love. To his delight he discovers, that she loves him either. Joyful scene is interrupted by Amelia's husband - she manages to hide her face in the voile. Renato came to warn his friend about the upcoming threat. Richard asks him to take care of the lady. Renato blocks the way to the conspirators; Amelia accidentally uncovers her face while trying to help him.
A study at Renato's place. He is threatening Amelia with death. She begs him to hug her son one last time. Renato realizes, that he must unleash his vengeance on the traitor, Richard, instead of his wife. Samuel and Tom appear. Driven by his anger, Renato wants to join their conspiracy.
They must draw straws to pick the executor. Renato forces Amelia to take out a lot, the name drawn was Renato. The murder must be committed during the Masked Ball, and the conspirators are already anticapating victory. Richard's study. He decides to subdue his lust and signs a decree, charging Renato and Amelia to move to England. The ball music comes from the hall. Richard rushes to see his love for the last time. Mixed with the crowd, Renato finds out under which mask Richard is hidden. Amelia warns him about the threat, both again trapped in a wake of their passion. Richard informs Amelia about their forthcoming separation. When they bid farewell, Renato inflicts Richard a fatal blow. Among overall mess, Richard justifies Amelia. He dies having their murderers forgiven.