Un Ballo in Maschera
Un Ballo in Maschera was first produced at the Apollo Theatre, Rome, on February 17th, 1859. It was composed towards the close of the great productive period which had seen a quick succession of brilliant operas, which included such favourites as Rigoletto, Il Trovatore and La Traviata. Verdi's opera originally was to have been produced at Naples in 1858, but the attempted murder of Napoleon III, by Orsini, which took place at that time, caused the authorities to ban an opera which dealt with the assassination of a sovereign. The people of Naples, who were looking forward to another work by their famous compatriot, and who were already plotting the coming War of Independence, seized on this excuse to riot. They paraded the streets shouting "Viva Verdi!" (Long live Verdi), but the letters V.E.R.D.I. had a thinly veiled political significance, and the cry really meant: "Viva Vittorio Emmanuele Re d'Italia!" (Long live Victor Emanuel, King of Italy). A way out of the difficulty was found by changing the scene of the opera to Boston, Mass. The murder of an Englishman in distant America was apparently of no particular consequence. Adelia became Amelia; Edgar the page came forth as Oscar, and the unfortunate King Gustave III was transformed into Richard, Earl of Warwick. We hear a 53-year-old Gigli whose voice has gained in power and weight at a time when he started to add the heavier Verdi-roles to his repertory. All parts in this “Ballo” were cast with the best singers Italy had to offer in these years. Maria Caniglia, Gino Bechi and Tancredi Pasero enjoyed great careers, not only in Italy, but also in most of Europe´s opera houses. The tension and verve of this recording from 1943 under the direction of the great Tullio Serafin until today ranks among the reference-recordings of this work.