Another “Masked Ball” in DC….
The Washington National Opera launched its budget-shortened 2010-2011 season last night with a decent new production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball) at the Kennedy Center’s Opera House. The singing, costuming and orchestral playing were generally good, but the production’s five-and-dime sets left much to be desired.
Un Ballo boasts one of the most convoluted premieres in 19th century opera history. Originally entitled “Gustavus III,” its libretto was based on the assassination of the eponymous Swedish King (actually Gustav III) at a lavish court ball in 1792. But the opera ran into trouble with government censors when the composer attempted to stage it in 1858. If today’s thin-skinned artists want to carp about (nonexistent) censorship, they should study Verdi’s travails with this opera to gain some needed perspective.
With the continentwide revolutionary uprisings of 1848 still fresh in their minds, Italian authorities grew increasingly nervous about the upcoming Verdi opera’s anti-royalist undertones. They threatened to ban it! Get the scary details from Terry Ponick of the WashingtonTimes.com: http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/curtain-up/2010/sep/12/verdis-masked-ball-opens-wno-season/