BWW Reviews: MASKED BALL in San Francisco

BWW Reviews: MASKED BALL in San Francisco

Verdi was a master at crescendo. In "Masked Ball," the score foreshadows and defines even while characters defy fate. As Count Anckarstrom laments his wife's betrayal in the opera's third act, the harp and violin take turn in old romance and revenge, building to a grand determination.

Like Verdi's "Rigoletto" and "Il Trovatore," "A Masked Ball" concludes with a game-changing revelation in answer to an incredible setup. The San Francisco Opera production may not be the spectacle that Verdi's title suggests - after all, the referenced masked ball does not arrive until a stirring finale - but music and intrigue bring out the momentum, particularly with a spectacular cast.

Jose Maria Condemi's direction takes its time developing, and lead tenor Ramon Vargas is not in his element for the fallen King in love with his best friend's wife. Still, Heidi Stober's youthful pageboy Oscar, the legendary Dolores Zajick's ominous fortuneteller Ulrica, Julianna Di Giacomo's immediately striking Countess Amelia, and Scott Conner and Christian Van Horn's strong-voiced schemers make the production worthwhile. Audiences can also watch for conductor Nicola Luisotti, who steals the spotlight with his excited and passionate movement.

"Masked Ball" plays its final performance this Wednesday evening. For a more modernized offering, attend San Francisco's innovative new production of Handel's "Partenope," which closes November 2. For a classic by another famous composer, plan to see Puccini's La Boheme, opening this Thursday and going through November 8. And for families, San Francisco Opera offers Rossini's "Cinderella" November 9 through November 26.


A MASKED BALL - San Francisco Opera-

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