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Ballo il Maschera

Ballo il Maschera – Verdi

The masked ball was written about a real life event – King Gustav of Sweden was assassinated whilst attending a masked ball in 1792. However when Verdi presented his opera to the censors they decided that it was too close to the truth and they would not allow the death of a monarch to be portrayed on stage, and whilst Verdi had been writing the opera several more assassinations took place.  Eventually the issue was resolved when the location was changed to North America and the subject to the Count of Warwick.

So the opera starts with the Count checking the arrangements for a masked ball that he is holding, he checks that the name of his amore, albeit married to his secretary Renato, is on the list. His secretary arrives to warn him that there is a growing conspiracy against him and that he should not hold the ball.

The magistrate appears stating that there is a gypsy accused of witchcraft – she is a well-known fortune teller and his staff says there is no harm in her so he decides to visit her incognito, with some of his staff in attendance to see for himself. Mischievously the Count decides that he will “prove” the fortune tellers provenance when he hears her tell a sailor that more money is coming to him from a promotion and slips money into his satchel. He approaches her to have his fortune told and she warns him that the next man to shake his hand will kill him, she then moves the crowd on as she is expecting a lady for a private consultation – his amore Amilia. 

So he hides and listens to the conversation where Amelia confesses her love for a man who is not her husband and asks for a remedy, she is told to collect a certain herb at night. Renato arrives and, discovering the Count, shakes his hand, the Count is relieved as he trusts him completely and thinks that he at least will not attempt to kill him.

As Amelia leaves in the dark to collect her herbs the Count follows her and approaches her whereby they finally announce their love for each other. His secretary arrives and Amelia quickly drops her veil, Renato tells the Count that the conspirators have seen him leave and he is danger so the Count slips away leaving his secretary to guide the lady home – the conspirators arrive and a short fight ensues where Amelia’s veil drops revealing her face. Renato assumes that his wife is having an affair with the count and, furious decides to join the conspirators and agrees to meet with them in private.

His fury constantly building, he decides to kill his wife but she begs to see her son one more time before she dies, and seeing them together he relents, deciding that it is the Count who is to blame. When he meets with the conspirators he asks to join them, declaring his hatred for the Count and they draw lots to decide who will kill him, Renato’s name is drawn.

The Count’s conscience is bothering him and he decides that to remove temptation he must send his secretary and wife away, back to England and goes to the masked ball having made his  

decision. The conspirators look for him and finally spot him talking to Amelia, telling her that he has decided she must return to England.

Renato, furious again, stabs and kills the Count and with his dying breath the Count tells Renato that his wife has not been unfaithful, despite the temptation and that he was going to return the two of them to England, he pardons all the conspirators and says goodbye to his country.

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