Joint cultural projects involving international partners have become a good tradition at the Donbass Opera. After a successful Ukrainian-German production of Richard Wagner’s opera The Flying Dutchman, the theater’s management decided to go back to the immortal Italian classics. The idea of the director general Vasyl Riabenky found support at the Italian Embassy and Italian Cultural Institute in Ukraine. Therefore, the new theater season will open in September with the Donetsk premiere of A Masked Ball by Giuseppe Verdi, staged by famous Italian director Italo Nunziata.
His name is well-known in Kyiv. He staged five productions at the National Opera of Ukraine: Manon Lescaut by Giacomo Puccini, Macbeth and A Masked Ball by Verdi, opera buffa Love Potion by Gaetano Donizetti, and Cinderella by Gioachino Rossini. Soon, Donetsk audience, too, will get acquainted with the Italian director’s masterful work.
Its musical dramaturgy, colorful vocals of soloists and choir, and orchestra performance give A Masked Ball a special place in Verdi’s creative legacy. In this work, the composer dealt with perpetual moral themes of good and evil, love and betrayal, honor and meanness. Each character clearly declares their attitudes and understanding of life ideals. A tragic conflict unfolds in the heart of Riccardo, pitting his sense of duty against love for Amelia. Suspecting his beloved wife of cheating, his best friend Renato turns into a bitter enemy. Note the melodramatic ending of the opera, in which the noble hero forgives his killers. It provides an example of the ability to forgive, so rare in our time.
Recently, the Donbass Opera hosted a meeting of A Masked Ball’s production team, including director Nunziata, stage designer Serhii Spieviakin, costume designer Oksana Kubekina and the theater deputy director for productions Valentyna Korniienko. One of the main issues was the choice of the performance’s historic and geographic setting, as it was placed in Boston, Naples, and Stockholm over the years.
Let us recall that Nunziata produced A Masked Ball for the first time 30 years ago. The director himself admits that theater has been his entire life. He grew up and received education in the theatrical environment and has risen from ballet dancer to assistant director and director (he worked for Milan’s Teatro Piccolo under prominent theater director and actor, founder of this theater Giorgio Strehler. Nunziata currently teaches the art of theatrical motion at the Rome Conservatory to solo singers and piano accompanists).
The director proposed to move the action in the Donetsk production of A Masked Ball to the end of the 19th century. This idea will be reflected in scenery, costumes and stage settings, all working to show the magnificence and large scale of Verdi’s musical work. Soloists and choir expect interesting and fruitful creative cooperation with the Italian director. The production’s main focus will be on costumes, to convey best the work’s conflicts and reveal its images (this is rare for opera productions). As admitted by Nunziata, staging Hamlet at a drama theater and A Masked Ball at an opera are equally hard tasks, requiring complex work on revealing images and characters of protagonists.
During his visit to the Donbass Opera, Nunziata met with the troupe and listened to one-act operas The Impresario by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and The Bill of Marriage by Rossini. “You have beautiful voices, clearly from a good Italian school,” he said when assessing the theater’s soloists, thus heaping the highest praise known to vocalists. So, the project has started. The director took home a Ukrainian embroidered shirt as a memento from Donetsk. Nunziata will next arrive in the city in late April to begin rehearsals with soloists and choir.