Ballo 3

Tonight to Opera Australia’s production of Masked Ball for the third time.

The performance was being “captured” for Cinema Live. There were three cameras up in the middle about row G or H of the stalls (where the company bigwigs usually sit), another on the eastern end of row D, and an enormous cantilevered boom coming out of the front of Loge A, swinging right over the stage. This was surprisingly unobtrusive and even congruent with the Orwellian theme, but I think it may have made the audience rather self-conscious.  Especially in the first half, a number of moments which might have elicited applause (and did so last time) passed in silence.  Maybe it’s a Tuesday thing.

There may even have been other cameras which I have missed in this account.

Someone once told me that the first generation of live video recordings of the opera, starting in about 1983, were made possible by the ABC’s acquisition of compact video cameras for the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games. These cameras didn’t seem particularly compact.

Some things remained the same from the first two times: there were just too many words for Gustavo to keep up with the pace set by Andrea Molino for “Ogni cura si doni al diletto” (the number about all meeting at the fortune-teller’s at three which is obviously written to be a catchy “hit”).  On the other hand, Jose Carbo has burnished his tone to a darker hue, particularly just above the stave, where I had previously felt that an occasional lighter tone peeped through the Verdian veneer which he is in the process of acquiring.

One of my favourite bits in this opera is at the end of Act II: Amelia, Anckarstrom’s wife, has followed the fortune teller’s advice and come to gather a herb at midnight at the foot of the gallows beyond the city walls.  This, she hopes, will cure her of her guilty love for the king.  Unfortunately for this plan, the king has overheard the fortune-teller’s advice and come there also, and they have declared their love for each other (but not actually got up to anything else).

In the meantime, conspirators have somehow got wind that the king is there with a woman and are coming to attack him.  Anckarstrom comes to warn the king.  As the conspirators approach, the king slips away, but not before Anckarstrom promises to accompany Amelia (who is veiled) back to the city without lifting her veil.

The conspirators unveil Amelia, to Anckarstrom’s consternation.  What’s a fellow supposed to think?  In one of my favourite laughing choruses, the conspirators are grimly amused at Anckarstrom’s expense:  “See, our hero, on a “honeymoon” in the midnight under the gallows with his own wife.  What will the gossip be in the city when this news gets around!”  It’s a moment of multiple dramatic ironies.  The bit I like is not the first level sarcastic joke (why would a man need to have a secret tryst with his own wife? – or vice versa – and what a scandal not – save that the tryst was really with some other man) but the second-level one – maybe not quite part of the drama but one for the long-partnered: why would they want to?

At interval a couple of older women joined me at the table where I was standing partaking of my interval sandwiches.  That is, they were older than I.   Somehow, when we were discussing this scene, one of them said to me: “Do you remember the Bogle Chandler case?”  I think it was the nocturnal tryst aspect which brought it to mind, though the word she used was “cavort.”  I had to tell them that I was very young at the time.  (I was not yet three.)

3 Responses to “Ballo 3”

  1. wanderer Says:

    I’m afraid I do remember the BC case. I think it predated television as I only recall the newspaper front page(s) and I’m not going to google it now lest that contaminate my memory. What I remember was the slightly heady and intoxicating (to me that is) feeling that the leafy north shore had been host to a scandal of middle class intellectuals embracing infidelity, sex, drugs, and death without anything being certain except that there had been a party and now they were dead. It seemed then such a romantic ‘way to go’, mysteriously non-violent, accidental or not, leaving no clues and befuddling the cops. Like dying of consumption in the ams of a lover or romeo and julietting your way out.

  2. marcellous Says:

    My parents remained in touch with Vivienne Bogle (who returned to New Zealand) for many years, so it’s an incident I’ve long been aware of indirectly, particularly as a subject of slow-news-season anniversary rehashes in the press.

  3. Ballo 5 | Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] well, which is not always the case with recordings of things which one has enjoyed live (1, 2, 3 & […]

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