Opera - Music and More
Home | Lessons | Synopsis | Search | Discussions ] Glossary ] Resources
Un Ballo in Maschera
Opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Antonio Somma
First performed February 17, 1859 Rome
Place: New Orleans, Louisiana
A HALL INSIDE THE LOUISIANA GOVERNOR'S MANSION
Riccardo, Governor of Louisiana, is giving an audience to his ministers and officials. Among those present are Samuel and Tom, who are plotting to kill him. Riccardo receives a list from his page, Oscar, of those invited to the next grand masked ball. He is overjoyed to see the name of his beloved Amelia, wife of his faithful secretary Renato, on the guest list. Renato warns Riccardo that in addition to his loyal subjects, there are those who plot his downfall in attendance. Meanwhile, a judge arrives with an order for the expulsion of the black woman Ulrica, who is accused of witchcraft. Oscar, the page, defends her so Riccardo, who would like to know the truth, goes to visit her in disguise. When they arrive at the witch's hovel, Ulrica is predicting honor and riches to a young sailor named Silvano. The disguised Riccardo fulfills the prophecy by slipping a note into Silvano's pocket. A servant tells Ulrica that Amelia is on her way and Ulrica asks everyone to leave so that she can welcome the girl alone. Amelia asks for a cure for the love she has for Riccardo. Ulrica says she could make such a potion from a herb that grows in a graveyard near a local gallows, but that it must be picked at midnight. Riccardo has overheard and swears that Amelia will not go alone to the graveyard and he will use the opportunity to tell her of his love. Riccardo approaches Ulrica as a mariner in search of his fortune. Ulrica predicts that he will be murdered by the next person who takes his hand. Riccardo makes light of the prophesy, offering to shake everyone's hand, which the crowd declines. Renato bursts in and shakes Riccardo's hand, unaware of the prophesy. All join in a chorus proclaiming the mysteries of fate.
NEAR THE GALLOWS, MIDNIGHT
Amelia, heavily veiled, has come to the graveyard near the scaffold where the herb grows. Riccardo finds her and they declare their mutual love and sadness. Renato, aware that the conspirators are on Riccardo's trail, suddenly appears and tells Riccardo that the conspirators are nearby, waiting to murder him. Riccardo refuses to escape, but eventually consents provided that Renato give protection to the veiled lady (Amelia) without making any attempt to learn her identity. Renato and the veiled Amelia leave. The conspirators happen upon Renato and Amelia on the road and, during the exchange, tear the veil off Amelia. Renato, in despair and anger at Riccardo's betrayal, makes an appointment to meet with the conspirators the next day at his home.
A ROOM AT THE HOME OF RENATO AND AMELIA
In a terrible fury, Renato bids Amelia to prepare for death. Swearing that she is innocent, she begs to kiss their little son farewell. Renato yields to his wife's pleas and reserves all of his anger for Riccardo. The conspirators arrive and they draw lots to decide who will kill Riccardo. Amelia picks the fatal paper on which Renato's name is written. Oscar arrives, bringing the invitation to the ball.
THE GOVERNOR'S MANSION
Riccardo has decided to send Renato and Amelia on a foreign mission. Amelia enters and tries to convince him of the danger in store for him at the ball. Riccardo is determined to attend the ball anyway. Meanwhile, Renato discovers from Oscar what costume Riccardo will be wearing. Riccardo and Amelia sing a farewell duet and Renato kills Riccardo during the ball. Amelia tells Renato that their love was never consummated and that Riccardo had promoted him and commissioned him to England. With his last breath, Riccardo pardons Renato and dies.