Review Lyric's "A Masked Ball": 5 Principals = 5 Stars!

Lyric Opera of Chicago presents


At Ardin Kranick Theatre, 20 N. Wacker Drive
Composed by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Antonio Somma
Based on Eugene Scribe’s libretto for Daniel Francois Auber’s ‘Gustave III, ou le bal masque’
Conducted by Asher Fisch
Staged Directed by Renata Scotto
Opera in three acts in Italian
English titles by Francis Rizzo
November 15th, 18th, 24th,27th, 30th, December 4th at 7:30pm
November 21st and December 10th at 2pm
Buy Tickets
Running Time:  Three hours and twenty minutes includes two (fifteen minute) intermissions.

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

Five Principals!  Five standing ovations on opening night!  Five Stars!  The Lyric Opera of Chicago presents Giuseppe Verdi’s THE MASKED BALL, performed in Italian with English titles.   Rebellion threatens Sweden.  The King is distressed but not about treason.  He’s got it bad for the Count’s wife.  To distract himself, he visits the local fortuneteller. At cauldron central, he eavesdrops on the Countess begging for an anti-love potion to release her from kingly lust.  The mystic prescribes a little herb to banish the passion.  The King excitedly follows his love to the moonlit sowing of herbs.  Before he goes to pluck, the King receives the sage’s fatal prediction.  His next handshaker is his murderer.  Love confessions and assassin deliberations, it’s all about what to wear as the kingdom prepares for the ball.  The Lyric Opera has executed the five major principals in party planning perfection.  It’s this dream team that ensures A MASKED BALL is success unveiled!

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With the musical direction of Asher Fisch, each of the five principals is continually showcased for optimal performance.  As the King’s page, Kathleen Kim (Oscar) is delightfully animated.  Kim ‘tra-la-la’s’ with a playful but powerful presence.  Kim uses her tiny stature to effectively accentuate the mischievous humor.  Bringing the opposite effect, Stephanie Blythe (Ulrica) uses her big, beautiful voice to conjure up the supernatural.  Blythe’s performance is haunting as ghostly apparitions float above her.  She eerily dominates the stage with a spiritualist presence.  Sandra Radvanovsky’s(Countess) misery is the audience’s pleasure.  Stunningly singing about being plagued by love demons, Radvanovsky is pure passionate agony.   Her anguish connects and tugs at the hearts of everyone from Aisle A to the sixth floor balcony.  Frank Lopardo (King) and Radvanovsky share tender adoration in the ‘Teco io sto’ duet.  Lopardo is stirring with the ‘Ma se m’e forza perferti’ aria choosing honor over love.  In one moment, Mark Delavan (Count) bellows with death threats over the betrayal.  Later, his soulful rendition of ‘Eri tu’ is madness- sadness combo over the permanent loss of a friend and his wife.  Top five reasons to see A MASKED BALL:  Kim, Blythe, Radvanovsky,Lopardo, and Delavan. 

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In the five- is- a-charm show, the set transforms from majestic castle to gypsy liar to executioner garden to unhappy home to elaborate ballroom.  In the actual masked ball scene, the Lyric goes-big-because-you-didn’t-stay-home.  The last thirty minutes is a dazzling visual with festively clad guests on two levels being sprinkled in silver sparklies.  It’s the perfect finale on A MASKED BALL celebration.

Always appreciating the perfect party,  Jen describes the show with ‘dramatic, emotional and mesmerizing.’

Conveniently located across from the Lyric Opera, we opt to dine at One North Kitchen and Bar, 1 N. Wacker.  The initial greeting is a warm welcome.  Our server is quite attentive and maps out the plan to coordinate the meal to ensure our timely theatre departure.  Our intrigue is the salad options.  There are five salad choices that can be ordered as a ½ portion with add-ons available: chicken, steak, salmon, shrimp, or tuna.  I choose the chop salad with grilled chicken.  We start with a nice glass from Francis Ford Coppola’s collection and the cheese tray.  It’s all delicious and more than ample portions.  Having such a lovely time, we split a second glass of wine and continue to enjoy our meal.  Then suddenly, the clock strikes 7pm and our server is nowhere to be found.  She makes a quick appearance to drop off a to-go box but our bill is M.I.A.  It’s 7:20pm.  It’s important to note the Lyric curtain is 7:30 sharp with absolutely no late seating.  As the dining room empties out, we hurry to the check-out area to force the transaction.  Our server complies.  As we rush across the road to the ball, we hear the chimes announcing the pending start.  We make it to our seats with shoes in-tact!  I can’t disguise my frustration that I don’t like rushing to or from a ball.  

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