A Masked Ball, Opera by G. Verdi
With spectacular details such as fortune-telling, forbidden love, an aristocratic conspiracy and regicide, Verdi’s operatic masterpiece is a crowd-puller not just because of the music but also because of the plot.
Although the Swedish king Gustav III is hugely popular with both his people and most of the aristocracy, counts Horn and Warting and their followers are plotting to assassinate him. Although after an audience Count René Ankarström, the king’s most loyal friend, tries to warn him about the plot Gustav refuses to listen - he is deeply in love with Amelia, Ankarström’s wife. A little while later, the people and court gather at the home of the fortune-teller, Ulrica Arvedson, who had been accused of witchcraft, but pardoned by the king. Amelia also wishes to consult the fortune-teller as she wants to obtain a potion to cure her of her love for the king. Gustav, who is secretly listening to the conversation, learns that Amelia must go to the place of execution at midnight to pick a certain herb and decides to follow her there. After Amelia has left, the king also has the future predicted and is told that he will soon die, murdered by the next man to shake his hand. Ankarström then appears and greets the king by shaking his hand. Amelia and Gustav meet at the place of execution, but Ankarström, who does not recognise his heavily veiled wife, also suddenly appears to warn the king about the planned assassination. He promises to escort the veiled lady back to the city gate without looking at her or speaking to her. Gustav leaves the two and goes off to try and save his life. However, at this moment, the conspirators arrive and Amelia is forced to take off her veil. Ankarström recognises that he has been betrayed and joins the conspirators. At the ball that takes place a short time later, Ankarström succeeds in mortally wounding the king with his dagger. With his dying breath the king, who had decided to renounce Amelia, forgives his friend and swears that Amelia is guiltless.
Main characters and roles:
- Gustav III, King of Sweden (tenor): Ramón Vargas
- Count René (bariton): George Petean
- Amelia, wife of Anckarström, in love with Gustavo (soprano): Sondra Radvanovsky
- Count Anckarström, husband of Amelia and Gustavo's secretary, best friend and confidant (baritone)