WORKS: Gustavo III (reconstr. Gosset & Narici)
PERFORMER: Tomas Lind, Hillevi Martinpelto, Krister St Hill, Susanne Resmark; Gothenburg Opera House Chorus & Orchestra/ Maurizio Barbacini
CATALOGUE NO: CDS 426
Verdi fans will know how he encountered serious censorship problems with Un ballo in maschera, whose original libretto dealt with the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden in 1792. So serious were these that he withdrew it from its Neapolitan launching pad, thinking he might have better luck in Rome. He was wrong. Eventually he was allowed to go ahead provided he move the action outside Europe. Thus the work was premiered ending with a masked ball in the unlikely setting of 17th-century Puritan Boston.
The performance recorded here attempts to recreate the original work before it was altered. The editors had access to most of the skeleton score Verdi took to Naples, as well as an earlier sketch, when Gustavo III was the designated title. Most of the time, however, what we hear is the same (or very similar) to the more familiar Ballo. Only in a few places – the preludes to the first two acts, and the baritone aria in Act III – is it substantially different.
But that does not mean it is better. Only the Ballo version reached the stage, and it has to be said that the changes made by Verdi were musically advantageous, regardless of the reasons behind them.
The performance is competent, but of the principals only Susanne Resmark’s Ulrica has a complete vocal command of her role. There’s a good orchestra and a capable conductor. In all other respects, hang on to your Ballo. George Hall