Verdi’s A Masked Ball, one of his later operas, is based on an earlier opera, Gustave III, itself based on a real historical event: the assassination of King Gustave of Sweden during a masquerade ball. This is the fourth time it is being performed by the Israel Opera -- and the second consecutive time as this exact same production, under the direction of the same artist, Polish director Michal Znaniecki.
Even some of the key roles are being sung by the same artists that starred in the previous production, in 2014 -- notably, Latvian-born Israeli soprano Ira Bertman, in the lead female role of Amelia, as well as Romanian baritone Ionut Pascu in the role of Amelia’s husband, Renato.
Without a doubt, however, the most important -- and pleasing -- roles in A Masked Ball are that of Riccardo, the governor, and his page, Oscar. In the current run’s premiere, the lead male role of Riccardo was sung brilliantly by Ukrainian tenor Valentin Dytiuk, while Israeli soprano Hila Baggio, a familiar voice to local opera goers, was a show-stopper as Oscar -- a demanding role whose coloratura was executed by Baggio with effortless virtuosity.
This production also marked the return to the podium of another audience favorite, energetic Conductor Daniel Oren, after an absence of almost a year, since the spring of 2018. Oren was back with the opera’s resident orchestra, the Israel Orchestra Rishon LeZion, after having relinquished the baton of a string of guest conductors.
While A Masked Ball may not be blessed with any of the opera world’s more famous arias, it does not fail to hold the audience’s interest, thanks to the Verdi’s range in scoring, from solos to duets to trios to quartets and even quintets. In addition, more than once the stage overflowed with close to 100 voices of the Israel Opera Chorus, filling the hall with marvelous sound and the lilting notes of the timeless Giuseppe Verdi.