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Guildford Opera Company: Verdi’s A Masked Ball At The Electric Theatre

Published on: 9 Nov, 2018
Updated on: 12 Nov, 2018

The award winning Guildford Opera Company is staging Giuseppe Verdi’s A Masked Ball at the Electric Theatre on November 21, 23 and 24.

The opera is set in post-1900 Europe, a period of simmering unrest. Although not one of his best known works, it bristles with passion and Verdi’s ability to drive the narrative forward is second to none.

The tragic climax approaches inexorably and rapidly as Count Riccardo, a liberal ruler, tries to walk a tightrope between rival factions whilst harbouring a secret love for his best friend’s wife.

When the friend finds out, fate and the supernatural, political and sexual intrigue all become tragically entwined. The ball offers an ideal opportunity for both love and murder as friends and foes are hidden behind their masks.

Alex Haigh plays Count Riccardo In Verdi’s A Masked Ball at the Electric Theatre for the Guildford Opera Company.

The production at the Electric Theatre is fully staged with chorus, piano and wind quintet accompaniment and performed in English with surtitles using a new translation of Antonio Somma’s libretto by Peter Melville.

The excellent cast is headed by Alex Haigh (Count Riccardo), Przemekslaw Baranet (Renato), Natalie Johnson-Hyde (Amelia, Renato’s wife), Callie Gaston (Oscar, Riccardo’s page) and Louise Herrington (Ulrica, a clairvoyant).

A Masked Ball is based loosely on the assassination of King Gustavus III of Sweden in 1792, at the time of the French Revolution and impending war. The event was turned into a play and a libretto by Eugene Scribe in 1833 and it was to this source that Verdi and his librettist Somma turned in 1856.

Callie Gaston plays Oscar, Riccardo’s page in A Masked Ball.

By then a musical celebrity, Verdi was nevertheless regarded with suspicion by the Italian authorities for his sympathies with the Risorgimento (Italian unification movement), which in turn made him a people’s champion. This wasn’t the first of his works themed around regicide (Un giorno di regno, Rigoletto).

Against a background of censorship, Verdi finally re-set the location in Boston, Massachusetts, a safe distance from Europe, with some name changes, and the central character reduced to a colonial governor. Eventually restored to its original version, A Masked Ball retains these optional elements, though modern versions are usually set in Sweden.

Przemekslaw Baranet is Renato in the Guildford Opera Company’s presentation of A Masked Ball at The Electric Theatre.

Performances are on November 21, 23 and 24 November. Wednesday and Friday at 7.30pm, Saturday 6.30pm.

Tickets, £23 Wednesday and £25 Friday and Saturday with children and students £12 all days – all tickets include a £1 booking fee.

Contact the box office on 01483 501200 or by email on boxoffice@electric.theatre or book on-line at www.electric.theatre.

For those who like to find out about the setting and music, there will be a free talk by music director Lewis Gaston and stage director Stephen Oliver at 6.30pm before the Friday performance.

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