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Verdi: Gustavo III (DVD)

Piero Pretti, Anna Pirozzi et al; Coro del Teatro Regio di Parma; Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini/Roberto Abbado (Dynamic / DVD)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Gustavo III (Un ballo in maschera) (DVD)
Piero Pretti, Anna Pirozzi, Amartuvshin Enkhbat, Anna Maria Chiuri, Giuliana Gianfaldoni; Coro del Teatro Regio di Parma; Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini/Roberto Abbado; dir. Jacopo Spirei (Parma, 2021)
Dynamic DVD: 37937; Blu-ray: 57937   144 mins

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Before the Neapolitan and then the Roman censors intervened, Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera was to have been called Gustavo III – a title that maintained the plot’s relative closeness to the historical event that inspired it: the assassination of the king of Sweden at a masked ball in Stockholm in 1792. This 2021 production from the Teatro Regio in Parma uses the original sung text in the score of the final, so-called Boston version; with the obvious exception of changes in certain character’s names, the differences are relatively minor. The director was originally to have been Graham Vick, who sadly died in July 2021; the production we see is the work of Italian director Jacopo Spirei in collaboration with designer Richard Hudson.

A funerary monument dominates every scene, reminding us of the monarch’s death. At first, the characters wear mourning garments of Verdi’s period, though later the costumes mix in modern times – particularly in scenes where the historic Gustav’s gayness is clearly being referenced by the male chorus. In other respects this is a visually dull staging, the performances of the principals (with the exception of Anna Maria Chiuri’s Ulrica and Giuliana Gianfaldoni’s Oscar) dramatically limited.

Musically, things are better, with confidently sung accounts not only from the two aforementioned artists but also from Anna Pirozzi’s Amelia and Amartuvshin Enkhbat’s Anckastrom (his character’s name so-spelled); Piero Pretti’s Gustav is less even. Impressive conducting from Roberto Abbado and his choral and orchestral forces; but don’t expect a completely different score from the one you already know.

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George Hall