'See how the drama is turned into laughter,' comment the chorus, as they witness the destruction of a marriage and a friendship. Here Pierluigi Petrobelli shows how the irony woven into the tragedy (which strikes listeners today as so modern) ...
results from the meeting of French and Italian operatic traditions. Is this really a ridiculous libretto irredeemably mangled by a censorship which demanded that Enlightenment Sweden had to become seventeenth-century Boston? Or is it Verdi's finest achievement, with its perfectly symmetrical drama and beautiful variety? Since it dates from a time when Verdi and his librettist were actively drafting an operatic treatment of King Lear, it is not surprising to find that Un ballo in maschera echoes some of the themes in Shakespeare's tragedy. Benedict Sarnaker analyses the extended love duet - the kernel of the score, and the pivot of the action. In a detailed study of the musical structure of the great Act Two finale, Harold Powers looks at the laughingA" chorus and at the quicksilver character of Oscar, unique in Verdi's work. Three detailed essays introduce one of the most debated classics in Italian opera.