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SD Opera triumphs with Verdi's grand opera, “A Masked Ball”

Final scene in Verdi's "A Masked Ball"now playing at The Civic Theatre.
Final scene in Verdi's "A Masked Ball"now playing at The Civic Theatre.
Ken Howard

A Masked Ball

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San Diego, CA---Some how you know when the stars moon and sun are in alignment when the final curtain goes down at the end of a Verdi Opera; you don’t want it to end, even after three hours. That’s exactly what happened on opening night of the San Diego Opera’s third production, Verdi’s “A Masked Ball” now at the Civic Theatre.

With a stellar cast from top to bottom, a cohesive chorus led by Chorus Master Charles F. Prestinari, lavish period costumes (John Conklin) and period set designs and outstanding orchestrations under the baton of conductor Massimo Zanetti and directed by Lesley Koenig, Verdi’s opera is everything one would want grand opera to look and sound like.

Giuseppe Verdi’s A Masked Ball brings back Polish tenor Piotr Beczala as Gustav III and Greek baritone Aris Argris as Count Anckarström, the men at the center of this love triangle. Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova is Amelia their love interest and American mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe is Madame Arvidson the fortuneteller. Both are making their San Diego debut. Never once did either disappoint.You won’t want to miss any of these outstanding stars.

And while it’s difficult singling one above the other, both Stephanie Blythe and Krassimira Stoyanova blew me away. Each is different in tone and acting style yet both so capable that they mesmerize especially when Ms. Blythe takes command of the stage as the soothsayer. Her mezzo voice is beyond compare; crystal clear and resounding. Then the heart felt “Morro ma prima in grazia” by Krassimira Stoyanova as the lovesick Amelia, a woman torn by the love of one man and her loyalty to another is simply stunning.

The story, while convoluted and tragic revolves around friendship and love politics and honor. Although the close relationship between Sweden’s King Gustav III and Amelia, wife of his best friend, Count Anckarström, never really materialized past passionate embraces, he does insist that she pledge her love for him.

When the Count finds out about their feelings for each other, jealousy and anger drive him into joining a band of conspirators up to no good. Ultimately spurned on by anger he murders the King in front of his wife at a masked ball. As he dies, Gustav reveals the truth, and pardons Anckarström.

Inspired by the real-life assassination of King Gustav III after which Anckarström was actually beheaded, A Masked Ball features some of Verdi’s best music and one of the most love duets ever composed: Teco io sto.

Credit director Leslie Koenig for keeping all the moveable pieces in play and the singers firmly rooted in their characters, and artistic director Ian Campbell for his keen eye and ear in assembling this International cast of celebrities any opera company would die for.

Conductor Massimo Zanetti also making his company debut was flawless as singers and musicians moved as one. With Verdi’s music at its finest, this is one opera/production not to be missed.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: 7 pm tonight March 11, March 14, 2pm March 16.

Organization: San Diego Opera

Phone: 619-533-7000

Production Type:

Where: San Diego Civic Theatre, 1100 Third Ave., downtown

Ticket Prices: $45.00-$225.00

Web: sdopera.com

Venue: Civic Theatre