Monday, November 14, 2005

Un Ballo in Maschera

This is the title of an opera by Verdi, the very first opera I have seen in my life! Yes, it's true. No one can believe I lived this many years without this experience, but, somehow I have. I just never had an opportunity before. But here, everyone goes to the opera at some point in their Sicilian stay. It's a part of the experience of living here, just like going up on Mt. Etna or eating black spaghetti. So, I went to see "Un Ballo in Maschera" at the Bellini Opera in Catania with two friends who had lots of opera experience.

The Teatro Massimo Bellini itself is an experience. It's said to be the most beautiful in Italy, even beating out La Scala in Milan. It was also supposedly in one of the Godfather films. It's all gold and gilt and exactly like an opera house should look in my mind. We had great third row seats, having inherited them from a colleague who transferred from Sicily. Having season tickets is a big deal, too, and once acquired, you never, ever give them up. Bellini, by the way, is the most famous "favorite son" of Catania.

I really thought that I might be terribly bored during a three-hour opera entirely in Italian, but surprisingly, I was not. It was something like viewing modern art--you kind of like it but have no idea what it means. So, I enjoyed the music, the voices, the performing, the staging, and as much of the story as I could figure out (and this with the help of my friends and two printed synopses).

It was all very dramatic and almost funny in that regard with all the extreme gestures, acting, and all. As near as I can figure, it went something like this: This guy Ricardo is something like a judge and all the other men don't like him and plot to kill him. He is in love with Amelia, but she is already married to his male secretary, Renato. Somehow the plot to kill him is spoiled. A case comes to him regarding a fortune teller and the entire cast goes off to see this person who foretells something bad for Ricardo. He, being the hero, doesn't believe it. The next thing you know, he is somehow in the forest by himself and whom does he run into but the beautiful (and plump) Amelia. I don't know why either of them was there, but he ends up admitting that he loves her. All of a sudden her husband shows up in an attempt to warn Ricardo that he is in danger and finds his boss with his wife. Two hired assassins also show up and the all think there's some hanky-panky going on (when really there wasn't). Ricardo escapes but Renato takes Amelia home and is very angry. He is drinking and promising to kill her. She is begging him to let her see her son before he does. This scene goes on and on and on, and, of course, eventually Ricardo shows up and Renato kills him instead. In his dying breath, he tells his secretary and long-time friend that his wife was never unfaithful to him and it all ends tragically and ironically with Ricardo dying at his friend's hand instead of at his enemies'.

I'm not sure if I'll see more opera, but I'm not ruling it out. Supposedly, the Sicilians really come out for the Italian operas and not so much for those by other composers. The next one is by Janacek, so maybe I'll just Czech it out.


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