Un Ballo in Maschera, music composed by Giuseppe Verdi, libretto by Antonio Somma, Investec Opera Holland Park, City of London Sinfonia conducted by Matthew Kofi Waldren, new production of the original, uncensored version directed by Rodula Gaitanou, based on the drama Gustave III de Suède by Eugène Scribe, Friday 21st June 2019, reviewed by Leslie Jones
In a letter to his librettist Antonio Somma, Verdi alluded to the difficult gestation of Un Ballo in Maschera, notably the seemingly intractable problems with the censors, both in Naples and Rome. “I bathe in a sea of ennuis”, he complained. In a contemporaneous missive to the publisher Ricordi, he again struck a note of self-pity, stating that “we poor gypsies and charlatans are obliged to sell our labours, our thoughts, our delirium for gold…” (quoted in Verdi, by Carlo Gatti, vol 1).
However, the premiere in Rome, in February 1859, was a triumph and it coincided with a wave of patriotic fervour (the Franco-Austrian War, plotted by Napoleon III and Cavour at Plombières, was about to commence). Yet as Gatti observes, Un Ballo was no mere “succès de circonstance”, as this splendid new production at Holland Park demonstrates. The score is replete with fine arias, duets and ensemble work à la Donizetti and the plot has echoes of Shakespearian tragedy, notably of Macbeth. Continue reading