Lavish “A Masked Ball” Playing at Lyric

Grand opera, in all its glory, is now playing at the Civic Opera House. The Lyric is presenting Giuseppe Verdi’s “A Masked Ball,” and it is just what the grandest of operas should be.

The plot is full of intrigue, with assassins conspiring to kill the benevolent Gustavus, King of Sweden. He is secretly in love with Amelia, who is the wife of his best friend Renato. She returns the King’s passion, but maintains her honor, despite suffering the torments of love. Renato, however, discovers them together, thinks the worst and vows revenge. There’s more, but suffice it to say that high drama prevails throughout.

Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky is thrilling as the tortured Amelia. Her voice is golden, penetrating and powerful in all her arias. Frank Lopardo is a magnificent king, his rich tenor soaring through every act, and baritone Rene Barbera is superb as the husband Renato.

Of special note is mezzo Stephanie Blythe as the sorcersess Ulrica. Her range and depth of tone made Ulrica’s aria a highlight of the performance.

Amid this drama is the adorable Oscar, the king’s page, sung by tiny soprano Kathleen Kim with coloratura perfection. Plus she is dandy actress and provides much-needed comic relief.

The lavish 18th century-style costumes by John Conklin, and the set for the final masked ball is a fantasyland, complete with glittering gold confetti falling slowly to the ballroom floor.

The Lyric Orchestra plays under the capable baton of Israeli conductor Asher Fisch, and Verdi’s dramatic music is as packed with romance, foreboding and irony as any Hitchcock film score. The Lyric chorus does some of its sweetest singing. The production is directed by Italian soprano Renata Scotto of international fame, who sang the role of Amelia in many opera houses in decade’s past. With her touch, everything came together in grand style.

“A Masked Ball,” which runs through Dec. 10, is sung in Italian with English supertitles. For information, call 312332-2244 or visit lyricopera.org.