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Scene i, The governor's house
Riccardo reviews his guest list for the coming masked ball. Seeing the name of Amelia, he is moved and privately expresses his guilty love for his secretary’s wife. Renato, his secretary, then enters to warn Riccardo about plots against Riccardo’s life, which the governor laughs off. The judge appears, requesting that Riccardo exile Ulrica, a fortune-teller suspected of supernatural practices. Oscar, the page, defends Ulrica and Riccardo decides to visit her in disguise to see for himself, inviting the court to follow him.
Scene ii, Ulrica’s dwelling
In hiding, Riccardo sees Amelia ask the fortune teller to rid her of the love that torments her. Ulrica tells her of a healing plant that grows in the graveyard nearby. Riccardo vows to follow Amelia on her quest. As his courtiers appear, he asks for his own fortune and is told he will soon die by the hand of a friend. Ulrica says the murderer will be the next person to shake his hand, a prophecy that seems absurd to Riccardo as Renato enters and greets him with a handshake. But Riccardo’s faith in his friend is unshaken. The people recognize Riccardo and all hail their beloved governor.
A terrified Amelia searches for the plant that will make her fall out of love, and prays for assistance in her ordeal. Riccardo appears and declares his love for her. At first reluctant, Amelia finally admits her love as well. At the sound of footsteps, she lowers her veil and conceals her identity. Renato appears, warning of approaching assassins. Riccardo agrees to leave only after Renato promises to take the unknown woman to the gates of the city, without speaking to her or looking at her. When the conspirators, Samuel and Tom, appear and find Riccardo gone, they decide to amuse themselves by revealing the face of the mysterious woman. When it becomes clear that Renato will fight rather than permit this, Amelia raises her veil. Renato is astounded and the conspirators break out in laughter. Enraged by his friend’s betrayal, Renato arranges to meet with the conspirators the next day.
Scene i, Renato's study
Renato informs Amelia that she must die. Although she admits her love for Riccardo, she insists that she has not betrayed her husband and begs to see her young son once more. Renato meets with Samuel and Tom and vows to help them kill the governor. They elect to draw lots to decide who will strike the final blow. Renato forces Amelia to draw and she is horrified when she selects her husband’s name. Oscar enters, bringing invitations to a masked ball in the governor’s palace. Renato decides to take Amelia with him and carry out the assassination at the ball.
Scene ii, The governor's study
Riccardo decides to sign an order sending Renato and Amelia back to England and muses on the loss of his love. He is brought an anonymous message warning that he risks assassination at the ball, but decides to see Amelia one last time.
Scene iii, The ballroom in the governor's mansion
Renato, Samuel, Tom and their followers search for Riccardo. Renato persuades Oscar to reveal the governor’s disguise. Amelia enters, finds Riccardo and begs him to escape, revealing that she sent the anonymous note. He reiterates his love, but tells her that she must leave with her husband. As they bid a last, tender farewell, Renato throws himself between them and kills the governor. Before he dies, Riccardo bids his people to release Renato and assures him that his wife’s honour is intact. Everyone grieves as Riccardo dies.
(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