Gustavo III: George Oniani
Amelia: Liene Kinča
Ulrica: Ilona Bagele
Sweden, 18th century. The last two days in the life of King Gustav III, the great benefactor of the arts. This is a tale of love, mystique, jealousy, betrayal, and, in the end, murder at a masked ball. The opera's sixth production at the LNO is based on the first version of Verdi's work, where the action takes place in Sweden instead of the U.S. (In the 19th century, censors demanded the setting of the opera be moved to Boston, during the British colonial period.) "Per la Gloria e molto, nulla pel cor - lots of glory, but nothing for the heart. Un ballo in maschera is a strange opera, rich in contrasts, with elements of an operetta, circus, clown show, and tragedy - all at the same time," says director Gintaras Varnas.
At the opera house sets are installed for a masked ball. The Swedish King Gustavo III arrives to inspect the preparations. The King's page Oscar gives him the list of those invited to the next masked ball. Gustavo is pleased to notice the name of Amelia - wife of his friend Anckarström for whom he has a secret passion among the invitees. Anckarström comes to forewarn the King about the conspiracy against the crown. The King ignores his friend's warning. The Chief Justice arrives with a decree banishing the fortune teller Ulrica. Oscar defends her. Gustavo invites all the courtiers to disguise themselves and join him in an incognito visit to the soothsayer to see with their own eyes whether the rumours about her witchcraft are grounded.
A crowd has gathered at Ulrika's to await news of their fortunes. Among those waiting for their prophecy is also the King. Christiano complains of the gruelling service he has given to the King for many years without proper reward. Ulrica reads from his hand that he will soon prosper. Meanwhile the King slips an envelope into Christiano's pocket with the long-awaited reward.
Amelia's servant enters: his mistress wishes to have a private audience. Ulrica sends her visitors away to grant an audience to Amelia. Amelia confesses her secret love for a man but seeks to be released from this impossible passion. Ulrica bids her to pick a magic herb at midnight in the graveyard, and that will cure her of her love. Gustavus overhears the conversation and resolves to follow his beloved. The courtiers in disguise enter. Gustavo calls for Ulrica to tell them their fortunes but Ulrica refuses at first. According to the witch's prophecy Gustavo will soon die. The assassin will be the next person to shake his hand. It is Anckarström. Gustavo mocks Ulrica, as his trusted friend can not become a murderer.
Amelia is looking for the magic herb in the site indicated by the witch. Gustavo enters, proclaims his love and coaxes a confession of love from Amelia. They are suddenly startled by Anckarström. Without recognising his wife, he warns the King of approaching conspirators and gives him his cloak. Gustavo bids Anckarström to vow that he will escort the veiled lady to the city without talking to her and without trying to find out her identity. The conspirators meet Count Anckarström instead of the King. The conspirators curse their luck as their intended murder fails again and they want to know who is the companion. The Count defends the faceless woman. To save her husband's life Amelia raises her veil. Anckarström asks Ribbing and Horn to come to his house.
Anckarström has decides to kill his wife. Amelia begs to see her sons one last time. He spares her life and instead wants vengeance on the King. The conspirators arrive. The Count declares his determination to join their plans. They draw lots to decide the killer. Amelia is forced to draw a slip of paper - Anckarström is the one who will have to make the fatal shot. Page Oscar invites everybody to a masked ball at the opera house. The password of the conspirators will be the death.
Gustavo is alone before the ball. He hesitates to issue the sigbed order and send Anckarström to England. The Page enters with a letter, which is warning of an impeding attempt on his life. The King ignores the warning and goes off to the ball to bid farewell to Amelia.
Among the guests are also the conspirators. Anckarström, recognising the Page, questions him about the King's mask. Oscar, being convinced of his good intents, reveals the secret. Festivities are in progress. A performance begins on stage during which Gustavus meets Amelia. Count Anckarström shoots the King in the back. The dying Gustavo forgives the guests, including Anckarström, to whom he announces that the order about his leaving is signed and still in force.