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VERDI’S FIERY DRAMA OF ROYAL INTRIGUE, UN BALLO IN MASCHERA, OPENS AT FLORIDA GRAND OPERA APRIL 29, 2017

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Miami Dade County; Florida Grand Opera winds up this season with the opera, A Masked Ball by VERDI, Singing key roles are (L) Claire Rutter as ,AMELIA and  Patrizia Palelmo as  ULRICA the sorceress. The opera opens 4/30/05. Please credit Photo by John Pineda 4/27/05

Miami Dade County; Florida Grand Opera winds up this season with the opera, A Masked Ball by VERDI, Singing key roles are (L) Claire Rutter as ,AMELIA and Patrizia Palelmo as ULRICA the sorceress. The opera opens 4/30/05. Please credit Photo by John Pineda 4/27/05

A tortuous love triangle involving the King of Sweden. A mysterious fortune teller who predicts that the King will soon die. An assassination plot. Few of Giuseppe Verdi’s operas contain as many bewitching elements as his 1859 masterpiece Un ballo in maschera (A Masked Ball), which opens at Florida Grand Opera on April 29, 2017, in the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County’s Ziff Ballet OperaHouse.

Un ballo in maschera is a powerful drama about a web of intrigue that splits the Royal Swedish court asunder. Ballo comes from one of the most fertile periods in Verdi’s career, just after Simon Boccanegra and immediately before La forza del destino. Its combination of romantic drama, suspense, the supernatural, and biting humor have made it one of the composer’s most consistently acclaimed and popular works. As Verdi scholar Charles Osborne wrote, Ballo is a work “whose characters are rich in humanity, whose melodies combine the warmth and vigor of the old Verdi with the lightness and elegance that entered his work with La traviataUn ballo in maschera is a complete work of art.”

The plot is driven forward by Antonio Somma’s swiftly paced libretto: Gustavo, the young and popular King of Sweden, is planning a masked ball. His secretary and close friend County Anckarström hears about a plot to assassinate the King, but Gustavo refuses to heed his friend’s warning. Gustavo is secretly in love with Anckarström’s wife, Amelia, and when Anckarström discovers this, he decides to join forces with the King’s enemies.

Ballo‘s controversial assassination plot ensured that it would not have an easy road to its premiere. It was based on the actual 1792 shooting of King Gustav III at a masked ball at the Swedish court. Because of the very real threats against the lives of various European monarchs, the censors demanded wholesale rewrites. Eventually, as a way of avoiding the situation altogether, Verdi and Somma relocated the work in pre-Colonial Boston. From the time it premiered at Roma’s Teatro Apollo on February 17, 1859, Ballo was a huge success. Florida Grand Opera‘s production makes use of the work’s original Swedish setting.

This production of Ballo is notable for several reasons. It marks the Florida Grand Opera debut of fast-rising American soprano Tamara Wilson, singing the demanding role of the tormented Amelia. Wilson made her first appearance as Amelia while she was a member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio in 2007. Since then she has emerged as one of the most compelling Italianate sopranos of her generation. She is the recipient of the prestigious 2016 Richard Tucker Award and was a 2016 Olivier Award nominee for her performance as Leonora in Calixto Bieito’s production of Verdi’s La forza del destino at English National Opera. Wilson sings Amelia on April 29May 2, 6, and 11; Alexandra LoBianco takes on the role April 30May 5, and 13.

FGO’s Ballo also brings back celebrated Puerto Rican tenor Rafael Davila, who sings the role of Gustavo, the enlightened monarch whose kindheartedness paves the way for his own destruction. Davila scored an enormous success at FGO last fall as Don José in Carmen, an engagement that was shortly followed by a last-minute Metropolitan Opera debut in the same role. In The New York Times, Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim praised his “burly, dark-hued tenor,” and predicted that “judging from the audience’s reaction, Mr. Davila will return” to the Met soon. Davila sings Gustavo on April 30May 5, and 13; former FGO Young Artist Jonathan Burton sings it on April 30May 5, and 13.

“This wonderful opera has not been done at Florida Grand Operasince 2005,” says Susan T. Danis, FGO’s General Director and CEO. “We are delighted to bring it back to FGO’s repertory with four such dynamic singers in the leads.”

Ballo also returns FGO principal conductor Ramón Tebar to the podium for the final production of the 2016-17 season. He was last heard at FGO in Carmen earlier this season; in Florida Theater Onstage, Bill Hirschman felt that the results Tebar drew from the orchestra were “by turns muscular, pulsating, exotic and poignant.”

The production is directed by Marco Pelle, best known in the U.S. for a long and rich collaboration with New York Theatre Ballet. Pelle feels that Ballo at its essence “is about fidelity and commitment—not only to the person you love, but to your own values. It’s about people choosing between betrayal and being faithful, and how actions cause reactions.” Ballo marks Pelle’s FGO directorial debut.

Ballo‘s love triangle is completed by baritone Todd Thomas, a popular favorite with FGO audiences from his appearances as Scarpia in Tosca and Sharpless in Madama Butterfly. In the latter, South Florida Classical Review wrote that he “radiates authority and wisdom.” Thomas’s appearances at a wide range of companies, including Seattle Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago have earned him a reputation as one of the most authentic Verdi baritones singing today.

The role of the fortune teller Ulrica is sung by popular mezzo-soprano Dana Beth Miller, who last appeared at FGO in the 2015-16 season as Adalgisa in Norma. Miller was singled out by South FloridaClassical Review for the “depth of emotion and striking theatricality” she brought to her portrayal in Bellini’s opera.

Playing the King’s frivolous page Oscar is Elena Galván, a member of FGO’s Young Artist Program. In the 2015-16 season, Galván scored a major success as Norina in FGO’s production of Don Pasquale. More recently, she appeared with the Nu Deco Ensemble at Wynwood’s popular performing space, The Light Box, singing Jorge Martín’s song cycle A Cuban in Vermont.

SCHEDULE | A Masked Ball

MIAMI ♦ Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County/Ziff Ballet Opera House
Saturday, April 29, 2017     7 pm
Sunday, April 30, 2017     2 pm
Tuesday, May 2, 2017     8 pm
Friday, May 5, 2017     8 pm
Saturday, May 6, 2017     8 pm

FORT LAUDERDALE ♦ Broward Center for the Performing Arts/Au-Rene Theater
Thursday, May 11, 2017     7:30 pm
Saturday, May 13, 2017     7:30 pm

CAST | A Masked Ball

Gustavo …………………………………………………… Rafael Davila
April 29May 2, 6, 11
…………………………………………………… Jonathan Burton
April 30May 5, 13
Amelia …………………………………………………… Tamara Wilson ♦
April 29May 2, 6, 11
…………………………………………………… Alexandra LoBianco ♦
April 30May 5, 13
Count Anckarström …………………………………………………… Todd Thomas
Oscar …………………………………………………… Elena Galván
Ulrica …………………………………………………… Dana Beth Miller
A Judge …………………………………………………… Benjamin Werley ♦
Cristiano …………………………………………………… Nicholas J. Ward
Amelia’s Servant …………………………………………………… Benjamin Werley ♦
Count Ribbing …………………………………………………… Calvin Griffin
Count Horn …………………………………………………… Alex Soare
Conductor …………………………………………………… Ramón Tebar
Director …………………………………………………… Marco Pelle
♦ = FGO Debut

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