Giuseppe Verdi never made it to the New Orleans Mardi Gras in his lifetime, but thanks to the efforts of New Orleans Opera Association (NOOA) artistic director Robert Lyall, his music will make the trip and opera enthusiasts cannot long endure the wait. Maestro Lyall will be on hand leading his orchestra this weekend as the NOOA reimagines “Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball),” a Verdi thriller of intrigue loosely based on the historical assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden.
The setting of this production will be localized and the masked ball will be updated so as to take place in New Orleans during the annual Carnival celebrations. There is probably no more apt a setting change than the opportunity being presented here. But the local connection has only just begun. Cast in the role of Riccardo is homegrown mega-talent Paul Groves, who was born in Lake Charles and grew up in the state. Groves happens to maintain a home on the Northshore with his wife and two small children and, according to published reports, is such a New Orleans Saints fanatic that he refuses rehearsals during their football games. Groves is considered one of the leading tenors of the day having performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera, San Francisco Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, La Scala, Paris Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Los Angeles Opera and the Vienna State Opera just to name a few.
Local singing talent Angela Mannino is also being given an opportunity to sing the trouser role of Oscar, a page.
Baritone Gordon Hawkins takes on the role of Renato, Riccardo’s most trusted ally, while Italian soprano Chiara Taigi, a highly regarded soprano for most Verdi heroine roles, is Amelia, his wife, whom Renato suspects of treachery, disloyalty and infidelity. Hawkins has impressive credentials as a Wagnerian star and is set to perform as Alberich in an upcoming production of “Der Ring des Nibelungen” at Deutsche Oper Berlin.
Performances will be held at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre for the Performing Arts on Friday night, November 18 at 8:00 p.m. The Sunday matinee performance will be at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets start at $20 and are available online here or by calling the box office at 504-529-3000.