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Oscar inspects the ballroom of the Arvedson Palace Hotel.
The party leaders are at breakfast. Most of
them are fervent followers of the governor
Riccardo, but among them are also some
secret opponents led by Samuel and Tom.
Riccardo arrives. Oscar hands him the
guest list for the planned masked ball.
Riccardo is delighted to see Amelia’s name
on the list. She is the wife of his best friend
and political advisor Renato, and Riccardo
has fallen in love with her. Renato appears.
He misinterprets Riccardo’s diffidence
as a reaction to the rumours of a planned
assassination attempt and urges him, in
the interest of his people, to intervene
against the conspirators. Riccardo manages
to not reveal his moral conflict to his friend.
The magistrate hands Riccardo a document
for signature: an order banishing Ulrica,
an African-American woman.
Oscar jokingly defends the woman,
who has made a name for herself as a
fortune-teller. In order to form his own
opinion, Riccardo decides to visit Ulrica
incognito in the company of his companions.
Before a circle of women and children,
Ulrica invokes the devil. Silvano, an invalid
veteran from Riccardo’s fleet, questions her
about when he will finally be compensated
for his sacrifice. Ulrica prophesies wealth
and imminent promotion. Riccardo, who
has been observing the scene, secretly
slips him a promotion letter. There is much
jubilation at such quick fulfilment of
Ulrica's prophecy. Amelia’s chauffeur
requests a private audience for his mistress.
Ulrica sends everyone away and Riccardo
hides. Amelia asks Ulrica to deliver her from
her adulterous passion for the governor.
The fortune-teller tells her about a secret
herb that, if picked below the gallows at
midnight, will bring release. Amelia wants
to seek it out that very evening. Riccardo
resolves to follow her.
Riccardo’s followers – including the
conspirators – arrive. Riccardo has his
fortune told. Ulrica prophecies his imminent
death at the hand of a friend. When Riccardo
pushes for more detail, Ulrica describes the
murderer as the next person to shake his
hand. Renato, who has followed his friend,
greets him with a handshake. Everyone
takes this as a sign that the oracle was in
error. Only now Riccardo reveals his identity.
This is met with enthusiasm; Silvano
initiates an anthem in his honour.
At midnight Amelia looks for the magic
herb beneath the gallows. Riccardo, having
secretly followed her, surprises her and
reveals his love and extracts a confession
of her love for him. Unexpectedly, Renato
appears to warn Riccardo about Tom and
Samuel, who are approaching with their
fellow conspirators. He switches coats
with the governor so that he can escape
unimpeded, and promises to bring Riccardo’s
veiled companion back to the city limits
without enquiring as to her identity. The
conspirators arrive and close in on the
supposed governor and his companion.
Renato reveals his identity and draws a
weapon, in order to protect the identity of
the lady entrusted to him. Amelia throws
herself between the fighting men and in so
doing drops her veil. The conspirators cannot
make sense of the proceedings and the
couple’s consternation, but take advantage
of it in order to play down their own
compromised situation. Renato invites
Samuel and Tom to his house for the next day.
Amelia attempts to convince Renato that
she has not committed adultery. He wants
to kill her. She begs him to let her embrace
her son one last time before her death. At
this, Renato decides to kill his friend rather
than his wife. Samuel and Tom arrive.
Renato asks to be taken into the circle of
the conspirators and hands over his son
as a hostage, whose life should guarantee
the sincerity of his intentions. They draw
lots to decide who gets to kill the governor.
Amelia is forced to draw the fateful lot.
Renato is chosen. Oscar delivers the
invitation to the masked ball. Renato
decides to kill the governor at the ball.
Amelia sees through his intentions and
desperately thinks about how she can warn
Riccardo without implicating her husband.
Riccardo, torn between friendship and
love, finally decides never to see Amelia
again and signs a decree dispatching
Renato and Amelia to England. When
Oscar delivers a letter from an “unknown
lady” (the masked Amelia) warning
Riccardo of an assassination attempt at
the ball, he believes he will be accused
of cowardice if he stays away. Full of
anticipation at the final reunion with
Amelia, he rushes recklessly to the ball.
The ball is in full swing. Oscar confirms
to the doubting Renato that the governor
actually is present at the ball. He also
manages to find out from Oscar what
Riccardo’s disguise is. Amelia discovers
her beloved and begs him to leave the
party, insisting that he is putting his life in
danger by ignoring her warning. Riccardo
can’t tear himself away from her, knowing
that the next day she will leave America
with Renato. When they embrace one last
time, Renato shoots the governor. The
dying Riccardo swears Amelia’s innocence
and shows Renato the signed decree with
his transfer to England. As his last official
act, he pardons his murderer.
(l – r) Catherine Naglestad as Amelia, Piotr Beczala as Riccardo, Dalibor Jenis as Renato, Anna Prohaska as Oscar, Oliver Zwarg as Samuel and Andreas Bauer as Tom in the Berlin Staatsoper production of Un ballo in maschera. Photo: Ruth Walz © 2008