Dial “B-M” (Ballo in maschera) for Murder*

Today there are three versions of the libretto and therefore three locations – Boston, Naples and Stockholm. The Bolshoi’s production is staged by a team of Verdi’s compatriots, however, they set this bloody story in America, as it was at the premiere of the opera. And the choice of the location became the main inspiration for the visual concept of the production. Davide Livermore, a director and a stage designer, is an expert on works not only by Verdi, but also by Hitchcock, the most influential American filmmaker of the psychological thriller genre. The style and suspense of his films – that’s what should be sensed by the audience of our "Italian" performance placed in America.

* Dial M for Murder is iconic film directed by Alfred Hitchcock (1954).

Davide Livermore: We desperately need passions!

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Director Davide Livermore

It’s funny that we decided to stage the American version. To say today that authorities can know what ethics is, and that they are capable of better. That’s why this story seems so relevant to me. Because we do live in a world, where everything seems within easy reach, in a world, which gives the illusion of unlimited freedom, but then takes away an ability to love. And Verdi, he always believed in love, even if it was destructive, like a tsunami.

Our Ballo is set in the 1950s and follows the spirit of the noir movies of those times. It is the story of a murder. But you will not find blood and violence! We want to focus the viewer’s attention on psychological drama. That’s why we chose the aesthetics of Alfred Hitchcock.

We place on the stage a typical "royal palace", bright and representative. It embodies America’s favorite architectural style inspired by Italian classics, especially by Andrea Palladio. People are struggling, trapped within this "palace" which literally put pressure on them, like a sense of duty. The scenery and costumes (costume designer – Mariana Fracasso, ed.) are made in only three colours: black and white (like in black-and-white films), as well as gold — as the attribute of power.

Another important point is the video design. We will recreate the techniques that Mr. Hitchcock loved so much: we will increase the tensions, keep the audience in suspense using lightning effects, maximum zoom and unusual angles. All these effects became possible thanks to amazing professionals — the companies Gio Forma and D-wok.

I want to show the emotional state of a person who knows that he can die anytime. Throughout the three acts of the opera, Richard (the main character, ed.) lives with this frightening feeling, he waits to die and is afraid of it.

Un Ballo in Maschera is a genuinely Romantic opera, I think it is the romantic center of the Verdi’s opera universe. It’s amazing! Supernatural, impossible things are going on, but anyway this story can happen to anyone. All of us are to some extent involved in Ballo in maschera…

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Maestro Giacomo Sagripanti. Photos by Damir Yusupov.