Murder in Opera: Hard Fruits of Enlightenment

January 18, 2017

The Novosibirsk opera and ballet theatre has launched rehearsals of Giuseppe Verdis opera Turning to Un ballo in Maschera that was once forbidden and cruelly censored in Italy because the plot was based on political murder. Stage director Vyacheslav Starodubtsev, who already embodied such genres as opera quest (Turandot) and fashion-opera (Aida) on the stage, has now decided to stage a production of the most scandalous Verdis piece in the thriller opera genre. The plot, that is politically essential nowadays, is concentrated around an enlightened sovereign who fell victim to his own enlightening activities.

Some of the critics characterize Un Ballo in Maschera as the most operetta-style of the operas, the others consider it to be the most melodramatic of the melodramas. At the same time the appearance of an opera based on the story by a French playwright Eugène Scribe running about the murder of Gustav III of Sweden coincided with a serious political crisis that broke out in Europe. On the eve of the premiere that was scheduled on 1858, there was an assassination attempt against Napoleon III that triggered a demand from the Naples authorities to make serious changes in the plot.

Turning to Un ballo in Maschera the theatres usually resort to two approaches, - says Vyacheslav Starodubtsev. In accordance with the revised libretto, they either transfer the action to Boston, or shift it to Sweden, as it was before interference of Italian censure that made the composer to transfer the action to North America.

Unlike the already-existing world trends the stage director is going to present a generalized character of an emperor-enlightener who dies by his own associates hand. Ring Gustav III who became a prototype of the main character of the opera, was one of the first European monarchs who insisted on adoption a freedom of word and freedom of conscience acts, - marks Vyacheslav Starodubtsev. - Being one of the brightest rulers of XVIII century, he initiated the construction of the Royal Opera in Stockholm and was murdered in that building.

At the same time the new production of Un ballo in maschera will depict the version of the opera where the main character was the governor of Boston. In accordance with the stage directors interpretation, the fact that Boston was established by the Puritans who escaped from Britain, prompted some artistic decisions. At least the costumes of the main heros environment will be made in Puritan historical manner, - advised Vyacheslav Starodubtsev. Its a conscious move. On the background of black-and-grey colours the brightness and enthusiasm of the enlightener is highlighted more attractively

In the stories of ancient Greece Vyacheslav Starodubtsev found a connotation that corresponds the opera plot: The story of the opera resonates with the legend about Actaeon who peeped at Artemis bathing with nymphs. As a punishment, the goddess turned the hunter into a deer who afterwards was bit to death by his own dogs.

The stage director is sure that the idea of the production will seem topical for the modern-day audience. Every day we have to make a choice that is influenced by political situation, family circumstances and even by the weather, - says Vyacheslav Starodubtsev. Every person of good intentions should always be ready that at any moment he may be betrayed by his own comrades who can easily unfriend anyone in social media.