"Un ballo in maschera" : An interview with director Adam Da Ros

Damon Jang

Adam Da Ros is an award winning music director and is a stage director. Trained at the University of British Columbia, Adam has a diverse range of talents from both the world of opera and musical theatre.

On a day to day he serves as an artistic associate for the prestigious Vancouver Opera Company and is the stage director for Opera Mariposa/Heroic Opera's production of Un ballo in maschera.

I took the time to chat with him about this project. 

Tell us a little about the opera.

Un ballo in maschera is based on real-life events - the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden in 1792 at a masked ball at the Royal Opera House in Stockholm. Verdi’s opera adds a fictional love triangle, with Gustavo’s love of Amelia, the wife of his best friend, fueling a desire for revenge. Combine that with a conspiracy, witchcraft, and an extravagant party, and you have the story of this grand Italian opera.

How did this new collaboration between Opera Mariposa and Heroic Opera come about?

Heroic Opera was launched earlier this year, with a mandate to produce the works of Wagner, Verdi, and Strauss. Their first production was a concert version of Wagner’s Die Walküre, after which point they decided to pool their resources with Opera Mariposa, a more established company in the city, in order to put on a fully staged and costumed production.

How accessible is the show to newcomers to opera?

I think the biggest impact on any opera’s accessibility usually comes from the story. The plot of this work moves forward at a very rapid pace, and the forbidden love, political intrigue, and basis in actual historical events certainly help in this. Of course Verdi is one of the great masters of the Italian opera genre, and this work contains some of the most beautiful music in the repertoire, so there really is something for everyone. The music so clearly stems from the emotional turmoil of the characters that you can’t help but get pulled along for the ride.

How do productions like this one impact the opera scene in Vancouver?

It is so important that we have opera companies like Heroic and Mariposa operating and collaborating in Vancouver. We are very fortunate to have one of the largest opera companies in Canada in our city, but in order to reach that level, performers need a lot of experience and opportunities that they can only get with this kind of production. Both Heroic Opera and Opera Mariposa exist to provide these opportunities to local up-and-coming singers. By bringing together students, recent graduates, and established professionals in our productions, we strive to create a vibrant and exciting opera community for both artists and audiences.

What was your biggest challenge in directing this production?

As is so frequently the case in this kind of production, the biggest challenge becomes getting enough rehearsal time - we always want more than we can have. The cast has really risen to the challenge, putting together a very large and demanding work in a very short period of time. In terms of the piece itself, Ballo exists in several versions, since it had to be revised heavily due to censorship. Deciding how our own version was going to work, and how to bring the characters to life in an honest and truthful way was definitely a focus of our rehearsal process, and I think it has paid off wonderfully.

Tell us a little about your vision for the piece.

We knew from the start that we wanted to try our hand at a traditional version of this piece, particularly on the costuming side of things. Since we will be performing in a church, there are limitations in terms of the technical theatre elements that are possible. I decided at that point that the best route would be to focus on the two things we could do really well: the costumes and the music. The set is simple - just a few pieces of furniture to indicate location, and then we rely on lighting and the architecture of the church itself to do the rest. The staging is intuitive - the intent is that you will really feel the characters’ thoughts and experiences creating the music you hear, rather than get pulled along by a pre-existing score. When we get to the final ball scene, the costumes really come to the fore in a final exhibition of the decadence which ended the era of the European monarchy.

Who should come to see the show?

I think that Ballo really does have something for everyone. If you are coming for the music, Verdi does not disappoint - the piece moves directly from one amazing aria or spectacular ensemble to the next. If you want drama, there is plenty of deceit, treachery, and disguise for everyone. Not only that, but you get the opportunity to hear these wonderful singers doing what they do best, in a work that is not very frequently presented in Vancouver. We hope that you will all come and join us for Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera!

$28 general | $24 students & seniors | $18 groups of 4+
Available at the door, at operamariposa.com or heroicopera.com, or from Brown Paper Tickets at 1-800-838-3006

Friday, November 17, 2017 @ 7:30 pm | Sunday, November 19, 2017 @ 2:30 pm
Canadian Memorial United Church, 1806 W. 15th and Burrard, Vancouver

Saturday, November 25, 2017 @ 7:30 pm
Marpole United Church, 1296 W. 67th Ave. Vancouver

The show in brief: In Verdi’s dramatic masterpiece Un ballo in maschera, romance, sorcery and conspiracy collide one fateful night at a masquerade. Don’t miss this riveting tale of passion and intrigue, featuring two casts of acclaimed and award-winning artists from around the globe.

About Opera Mariposa: Opera Mariposa is an artist-led company that “stands at the forefront of Vancouver’s opera scene” (The Vancouver Project). They showcase exceptional young and emerging performers in a diverse program of concerts, original shows, and fully staged opera and musical theatre productions; they are also well-known for their annual benefit shows, which have raised over $50,000 to date for a variety of charities. Learn more at operamariposa.com

About Heroic Opera: Heroic Opera launched in February 2017 as a new opera company dedicated to producing the works of Wagner, Verdi, and Richard Strauss. Their aim is to enrich Vancouver’s arts scene with more great operas for big, dramatic voices; their first opera was a summer concert production of Wagner’s Die Walküre, which had not been seen in its entirety by Vancouver audiences for over 40 years. Learn more at heroicopera.com