a masked ball (un ballo in maschera) by Giuseppe Verdi, directed by Michael Hampe, conducted by Nicola Luisotti, with Mikhail Agafonov, Zvetelina Vassileva, Timothy Noble, Fiona Kimm and Shannon Mercer. Presented by the Canadian Opera Company at the Hummingbird Centre (1 Front East). Runs January 30, February 5 and 8 at 8 pm, matinee February 2 at 2 pm. $38-$140, limited $20-$25 ages 18 to 29. 416-872-2262. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Why isn't Verdi's middle-period opera Un Ballo In Maschera better known? It contains some of his finest music and serves up a compelling plot about love and assassination. How can it miss?Whatever the reasons for its position behind Traviata, Trovatore and Rigoletto, the Canadian Opera Company's co-production of the work with the Dallas Opera and Bühnen der Stadt Köln fails to take off.
The production obviously needs more rehearsal time. Tempi are initially sluggish, singers miss their entries. In one scene, the set's wallpaper is practically falling down -- Un Ballo In Masking Tape.
Only Shannon Mercer's clear-voiced page, Oscar, is comfortable vocally and dramatically, getting laughs that contrast well with the drama.
Mikhail Agafonov's voice captures the extrovert quality of his King Gustavus III, but he graduated from the stand-and-deliver school of opera acting. Zvetelina Vassileva's Amelia, the woman he loves but can't have because she's married to his friend Renato (Timothy Noble), occasionally loses her pitch and relies on a floating pianissimo for easy emotion.
Noble, though, gets to the angry, twisted heart of his complex character, even if he pushes his voice too far.
Conductor Nicola Luisotti brings out some vivid colours in the score, but he and the singers are hampered by German director Michael Hampe, who fails to give the piece a consistent look, feel or raison d'être.GS