Sunday, September 19, 2010

Verdi's "A Masked Ball": Opera in the Outfield at Nationals' Park

The Washington Opera is presenting “A Masked Ball” (“Un Ballo in Maschera”) by Giuseppe Verdi, Libretto by Antonio Somma, Production from Opera Colorado (first performed in 1859). Today it was offered free on a jumbo screen at Nationals Park during the “Opera in the Outfield” series. (In the meantime, the Nationals lost and blew a game in the ninth inning in Philadelphia, 7-6; but the Park did not carry scores during intermission.)  The opera's link is here.

The production has some shared roles. Swedish king Gustavus is played by two tenors. Salvatore Licitra and Frank Porretta. Amelia, the temptress, is played by Tamara Wilson and Susan Neves . The trusted but ultimate enemy (from “Friend”) Count Anckarström is played Luca Salsi and Timothy Mix.

The story concerns a love triangle (or polygon) involving the King in late 18th Century Sweden, who holds a masked ball. When a fortune teller complicates things (after being accused as a witch), a conspiracy develops against the King at the ball, and at the end his best friend stabs him. The plot also concerns gossip and deception, and curiously anticipates some of the social “reputational” issues surrounding the Internet and social media – in an old “real world”.

The opera was censored because it showed a monarch being assassinated. For a time, Verdi had the opera’s setting changed to Boston and the king be a former count.

My reaction to all this is that may I should make my screenplay “The Sub” into an opera. I was pretty much “censored” for it when I was substitute teaching. Authorities are sometimes very afraid of literature that might seem to give people bad ideas.

The music is typical Verdi, with scalar passages anticipating the “Offertorium” of the Requiem; in the final scene, there is some curious grazioso music in slow triple time, leading right up to the stabbing, when there is a quick chorus and some confessions, leading to a crashing close in a minor key when the King dies.

Second picture: note the very small section where the right field wall at National's Park is high. Today we could walk the warning track, and kids played catch on it. Sorry, no Stephen Strasburg.

1 comment:

Bill Boushka said...

Comment from Amanda Pelletier (below)

Dear Bill,

Thanks so much for the fabulous story on "Opera in the Outfield"! I hope you enjoyed the day at Nationals Stadium.

I wanted to send a story idea your way that could be a perfect fit for the music enthusiasts that read your blog. Continuing the tradition of giving back to the community with events like "Opera in the Outfield", Washington National Opera is presenting the "Opera Look-in", October 16 at the Kennedy Center Opera House at 2 p.m. The “Opera Look-in” is a one-hour introduction to the artistry and spectacle of opera designed especially for families and kids (ages 6-12). This is a brand new production that stars young student actors from the Duke Ellington School for the Arts who perform alongside real opera singers from the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, the WNO Orchestra, and WJLA/ABC 7's Maureen Bunyan.

This original production tells the story of four young people who unexpectedly find themselves lost in an opera house. On their journey, they meet famous opera characters such as Figaro and Madama Butterfly, while they learn about the elements of the opera stage, such as lighting, the orchestra, and the conductor. Opera is not just for adults and all young people who want to learn more about this fascinating art form are invited to come and discover the magic of the stage.

The Look-in is another example of how opera can be used to teach kids skills such as analyzing stories, empathy, relationship building as well as cooperative skills. The Opera Look-in is an integral part of making opera accessible to everyone in the community and this is a perfect event to introduce the fascinating art form to members of the community who have never stepped foot inside an opera house. Tickets are affordably priced at $10-$35.

I have attached a press release and a photo for you to use.

Let me know if there is anything else you may need to run the story.


Amanda Pelletier
Marketing and Communications Department
Washington National Opera