The Masked Ball And Minnie The Moocher
Richard Trinder, Editor
I waited and it just didn't happen; was anybody going to spot the parallel between Verdi's Un ballo in maschera and Cab Calloway's Minnie the Moocher?
Surely the line...
She had a dream about the king of Sweden;
he gave her things, that she was needin'.
.. was a dead give away wasn't it?
Opera North's latest foray into the world of fatal passions is Un ballo in maschera (The Masked Ball).
Loosely based on the assassination in 1792 of King Gustav III of Sweden while attending a masked ballroom dance, the libretto was updated several times to avoid the strict censorship in place in Naples and Rome at the time.
Basically everybody knew it was based on the King of Sweden, and the authorities just weren't happy about showing that a King has his limitations - particularly as the King was initially portrayed as being gay. And that just wouldn't do.
It is a story of powerful loyalties, great enmities, unrequited love and a stabbing. Roll these together with some blisteringly powerful music by Giuseppe Verdi and you have Eastenders on steroids.
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The main set was a substantial looking baronial hall with appropriate early Modernist Facist Architectural styling. So it was a little disappointing to see the use of a huge red curtain as the only set for some parts of the production - it looked a little 'end of term school play' for me to take too seriously.
Featuring pretty much everybody who has ever sung in the chorus on stage at the same time, this piece really give the singers of Opera North their chance to shine. And they didn't disappoint with a powerful but restrained first act allowing them room to grow as the action really gets going.
Of the soloists, Rafael Rojas as King Gustavo was splendid, Phillip Rhodes as Count Anckarström was as as lethal as he was loyal, and a little too handy with a blade to be trusted in public places. Both were passionate and powerful.
Adrien Miksch as Amelia (Anckarström's wife and the King's would-be lover) has a beautiful voice and managed to convey the depth of emotion from her divided affections.
The Irish mezzo-soprano Patricia Bardon played the clairvoyant Ulrica Arvidson with great authority. She came across as a no-messing kind of girl who was particularly scary as she "knew everybody's future".
The part of Oscar is one of those described as a 'trouser role'. Tereza Gevorgyan played Oscar quite delightfully; floating discretely amongst the crowd and popping-up like a jack-in-the-box when needed.
Oscar is a protagonist but certainly not the main character. His (her) coloratura singing helped greatly with the illusion of being there, but not there. An interesting character indeed.
The music is fabulous, and I felt a little inadequate as I went home singing Minnie the Moocher. But it did lighten the mood...
The Masked Ball And Minnie The Moocher, 4th February 2018, 13:35 PM