Un ballo in maschera (A Masked Ball)
Setting: In and around Boston, at the end of the 18th century.
Scene 1: A hall in the governor’s residence
The governor, Riccardo, holds court with his ministers and officials. Among those present are Tom and Samuel, conspirators who are planning to kill the governor. Riccardo receives a list of those who are invited to the next masked ball. Seeing the name of his beloved Amelia, wife of his secretary Renato, he reflects on his passion for her. Renato himself enters after the others are leaving the hall and warns Riccardo of the plot against him. Riccardo gives it little thought. Meanwhile, a judge arrives with an order to banish the fortuneteller, Ulrica, who has been accused of witchcraft. Oscar, the governor’s page, defends her to Riccardo, who decides to visit the woman himself while in disguise.
Scene 2: The fortuneteller’s lair, by the docks
Ulrica, the soothsayer predicts that the sailor Silvano will soon prosper. Riccardo quietly slips money and a promotion into Silvano’s pocket, who discovers it and wonders at the fortuneteller’s powers. The governor stays in hiding when Ulrica sends her visitors away so that she can see Amelia in private. Amelia asks Ulrica’s help in curing the love that she feels for Riccardo. Ulrica tells her of a potion that must be made from an herb that grows in a graveyard near a local gallows, but that it must be picked at midnight. Overhearing this advice, Riccardo plans to follow Amelia and declare his love to her. Amelia hurries away. Disguised as a fisherman, Riccardo approaches Ulrica and asks her to read his palm. She predicts that the next person who shakes his hand will murder him. Amused by this prophecy, Riccardo offers to shake hands with anyone in the crowd, but no one accepts. Renato enters the room and shakes Riccardo’s hand, unaware of the prophecy. The crowd recognizes the governor and hails him, amid the dissent of the conspirators.
Heavily veiled, Amelia arrives at the gallows where the precious herb grows. Riccardo finds her there and, moved by his declaration of love, she confesses her love for him as well. Renato arrives to warn the governor of approaching assassins and Amelia quickly hides her face, fearful her husband will recognize her. Riccardo refuses to leave until Renato promises to provide protection and escort the veiled lady without trying to learn
her identity. When the conspirators find Renato and Amelia, she removes her veil, revealing her identity. While the conspirators laugh at this irony, Renato, in anger over Riccardo’s betrayal, invites them to his home the next day.
Scene 1: A room in Renato’s house
In the grips of ferocious rage, Renato drags Amelia home and tells her to prepare for her death. Swearing her innocence, she asks that she be allowed to kiss their little son goodbye. Renato yields to his wife’s wishes and decides to reserve his anger for Riccardo alone. The conspirators arrive and decide to draw lots to see who will have the duty of killing the governor. Renato forces Amelia to draw for him, and he rejoices when she picks the fatal slip with Renato’s name on it. Soon after, Oscar brings an invitation for the masked ball.
Scene 2: A study in the governor’s residence
After the encounter in the graveyard, Riccardo has decided to renounce his love and send Renato and Amelia on a foreign mission. Amelia sends the governor a letter warning him of the attempt that will be made on his life. Not wanting to appear cowardly, Riccardo is determined to still attend the ball.
Scene 3: The ballroom in the governor’s house
Meanwhile, Renato discovers from Oscar what costume the governor is wearing, and hunts for Riccardo among the crowd. As the lovers bid a final farewell at the ball, Renato, overhearing their conversation, kills Riccardo. The dying Riccardo forgives him and admits to having loved his wife, but assures Renato of his wife’s innocence. The crowd attending the ball cries at the loss of their generous governor.
Courtesy of The Atlanta Opera