Unlike Trovatore, Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera isn’t an opera I know. When I checked it out, the scene Bertolucci adopts from it at the end of La Luna turned out to fit his film’s dramatic logic quite as well as the one from Trovatore. Again, two men vie for a woman – she is married to Renato, but loves Riccardo, the Earl of Boston (based on the historical King Gustav III of Sweden, who was assassinated at a masked ball). The affair is chaste, but Renato, convinced otherwise and also politically motivated, kills Riccardo at the ball. The latter explains his wife is innocent of infidelity and, expiring, pardons Renato. It’s a masked ball, so Renato has to discover which masquer is his target; earlier, he asks the page Oscar, who is first coy with the secret then reveals it. In Bertolucci’s film, Joe wanders the set looking for his mother. Her friend sings him Oscar’s line: “Saper vorreste di che si veste, quando l’è cosa ch’ei vuol nascosa; Oscar lo sà, ma nol dirà …” (Oscar knows which costume but won’t tell). No tidy equivalence is to be drawn between the roles in the two dramas, but when Joe’s Italian father puts together his knowledge of who he is and what Joe has been up to (drugs and such) he slaps him. Maybe all Oedipal wrongs are now put right. What’s more, the film is at least as much Caterina’s story as it is Joe’s, and it seems that unlike the Verdi heroines she plays, she gets to have the better man in the end.
Never mind the garish set; and at least it has Italian subtitles. I couldn’t find one with English. Needless to say, this scene owes everything to the finale of Act II of Don Giovanni — a subject for a future post.
EDIT I surely meant Act I.