Saturday, 8 July 2017

I spoke not a word

'Experience teaches you that the man who looks you straight in the eye, particularly if he adds a firm handshake, is hiding something.' - Clifton Fadiman

And so to the opera. The plot of 'Un ballo in maschera' revolves around the assassination of a monarch and so, at the behest of the censors of the time, the setting had to be somewhere bland and non-contentious. Boston (the arriviste one in Massachusetts rather than the original in Lincolnshire) was chosen, presumably by committee. It has been the fashion recently to move it back to Sweden, Verdi's original inspiration having been the death of Gustavus III. However, the director on this occasion has eschewed real locations and made the characters playing cards, either black, red or, mysteriously, white. Still, there's not much point in complaining about the lack of logic in a fantasy setting, one should just go with the flow; and it all flowed along rather well I thought. 

The story can be boiled down to: man has an assignation with a married woman, her husband finds out and kills him; a scenario which hopefully won't befall any of us, at least not in full. But if that is to be my fate, then I hope to go down singing like Riccardo. Indeed I hope to go down singing, get back up singing even louder before finally succumbing whilst still singing. I say that because unusually in a nineteenth century Italian opera it is the male lead who gets the deathbed aria.

Going back to the plot, I know it's an opera and one has to tolerate some absurdities, but there was one thing that bothered me. If you were a group of plotters aiming to infiltrate a masked ball, where everyone is in disguise, in order to kill someone and you needed to set a secret password so that you could recognise each other without arousing attention, then would you choose 'Murder'?

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