Giuseppe Verdi's opera, Un Ballo in Maschera (with a libretto by Antonio Somma) is a fictionalized account of the actual assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden at a masked ball. In this case, the location and names have been changed, but the outcome remains the same. This production by the Union Avenue Opera (playing through July 7, 2012) is an excellent one, graced with splendid performances and intriguing costumes (Teresa Doggett) that initially, with their abundance of long-coats, have a faint "Matrix-like" quality to them. It's a dramatic presentation that embellishes history with a tragic love story, and a fortune teller, whose predictions are ignored.
The story is transplanted to Boston, and deals with the Governor, Count Riccardo, who is in love with the wife of his close friend and secretary, Renato. Surrounded on either side by supporters and conspirators, he seeks out the advice of Ulrica who reads his palm. She foresees his death, and warns him that his murderer will be the first person he shakes hands with. Naturally, he clasps the hands of Renato, whose wife, Amelia, is the object of his desire. Tragedy ensues.
Tenor Emanuel-Cristian Caraman does superb work as the doomed Count Riccardo, and Courtney Mills' voice soars as Amelia, his beloved. Andrew Cummings is equally good as Renato, and Rachael Holzhausen distinguishes herself as the Governor's page, Oscar. Todd Van Felker and David Dillard are solid as co-conspirators, and Tom Sitzler is fine as Silvano, a sailor who benefits from some good fortune when in the presence of Ulrica, wonderfully played by Denise Knowlton. Jon Garrett is also quite strong as the Judge.
Scott Schoonover does his usually superb work conducting the orchestra and Mark James Meier deftly handles the stage direction. Patrick Huber's set is properly regal with it's multiple columns, and it's moodily lit by him as well to fit the various scenes and locations that occur.
This production of Un Ballo in Maschera by the Union Avenue Opera continues to establish their fine reputation for presenting operas in their original language.