The Giuseppe Verdi opera “A Masked Ball,” about a royal assassination, hits South Florida stages this weekend.
The production, based on the real-life 1792 murder of King Gustav III of Sweden, will be shown at both the Adrienne Arsht Center and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
“It’s a standard traditional production, but what’s really striking about it is it has an extraordinary cast,” said Brian Kellow, spokesman for the Florida Grand Opera. That cast includes Puerto Rican tenor Rafael Davila, whose last minute pinch-hitting in Bizet’s “Carmen” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York earlier this year earned him rave reviews and a standing ovation from the audience.
Once considered controversial because censors in the late 1800s didn’t like the idea of a king getting killed in his own court, “A Masked Ball” tells the story of the young and popular King Gustavo, who is planning a masked ball. But his secretary and close friend Count Anckarström has become aware of a plot to kill him. Unbeknownst to Anckarström, however, Gustavo is in love with his wife, Amelia, leading to a chain of events.
The Florida Grand Opera was founded in 1941 by Arturo di Filippi, making it the oldest continuous running performing arts organization in the state.
While South Florida has no shortage of musical performances, Kellow said there is a following for opera.
“There are certainly die-hards, who come up to you and talk to you about opera like baseball fans like to recite baseball statistics,” he said. “But there are also a lot of young people coming out, and they dress up. I don’t see them in blue jeans, I see them going to a bit of trouble.”
The youth, he said, are so attentive that “they react hugely; they cheer when the hero triumphs, they applaud when the soprano tries to leave her rotten lover.”
Tickets range from $12 to $250. There will be five performances in Miami at the Arsht beginning on April 29, and in Broward on May 11 and May 13. Tickets can be purchased at www.FGO.org or by calling 1-800-741-1010.