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The Masked Ball på San Diego Opera 14 mars 2014


On March 14, 2014, a considerable number of Swedes, Swedish Americans and their friends and family gathered at San Diego Civic Center to witness something as gruesome as the assassination of a Swedish King. The monarch in question was Gustav III, however, not the current King Carl XVI Gustaf; the event was Verdi’s opera Un Ballo in maschera (The Masked Ball), and all ended well. After royally pardoning the assassin, the King sung his final glorious aria, died—but then got up to receive his share of the thunderous applause—together  the assassin—and ended up signing CDs in the lobby!

The happy evening was “Swedish” in several ways:  The San Diego season 2014 included an opera based on Swedish history and with Swedish characters. (It is reassuring when the assassin’s name includes an o with two dots above it!). After an October 2013 “community conversation” with SD Opera’s Nic Reveles and Michael and A.C. Harvey about the historic background for Verdi’s opera, the Swedes in the SD area were especially invited, offered a discounted ticket price, a backstage tour and a pre-performance reception. And they came—members of SWEA San Diego, the Vasa Lodges Scandinavian and Gustav V, the House of Sweden, SACC San Diego, the Swedish Center and more. All had gotten the word out, shined their shoes, and taken themselves downtown. Welcomed by Vice Consul Katarina Keane, they mingled  and enjoyed the festive atmosphere and sense of occasion. The collaboration with the SD Opera was made possible by the wonderful support and hard work of Lotta Wiik Lambert, Sofia Fransson Krall, The Swedish Center and the Consulate of Sweden. And SD Opera had done its utmost to make the evening special—not least by contracting an absolutely outstanding ensemble of singers[1] and the brilliant music director, Massimo Zanetti, conducting the San Diego Symphony. Musically, it was a true pinnacle for SD Opera.  And all the Swedes were, I think, a bit proud that it was their 18th century king that was the reason for it all!

As tenor Piotr Beczala (Gustav III) said after the performance (when he was signing my CD): “ I have sung this role more than once before, but never with a cast of this caliber! A true pleasure to work with everybody in San Diego!”

Anne-Charlotte Harvey

[1] The truly international cast was headed by Piotr Beczala (Gustav III), Kathleen Kim (Oscar), Aris Argiris (Anckarström), Stephanie Blythe (Mme Arvidsson), and Krassimira Stoyanova (Amelia).