Isabella d’Aspeno or Gustav’s Disguises: An Unknown Prototype of Un Ballo in Maschera?

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The present article focuses on an opera forgotten today, but popular in its time: Isabella d’Aspeno, a work by the Ionian composer Paolo Carrer and the unknown Italian librettist hidden behind the initials R.G.S. The opera Isabella d’Aspeno was performed in April 1855 at the Milanese theatre ‘Carcano’ and was considered one of the grands succès of the season, a fact confirmed by the numerous repetitions of the production during that year and the next. The special interest of this work lies is its obvious thematic similarity to the libretto of the celebrated Italian opera Un Ballo in Maschera by Giuseppe Verdi and Antonio Somma.
Taking into consideration that Carrer’s Isabella is chronologically anterior to Verdi’s Ballo (1859), it would be reasonable to wonder whether the work of the young composer from Zante served as one of the models for one of the major operatic creations of the king of Italian opera. Since Isabella d’Aspeno was such a major operatic hit at the time when Verdi and his librettist Somma were working on the dramatic plot of Un Ballo in Maschera, the possibility that they were aware of it cannot be ruled out. We will attempt to investigate this issue by offering a comparison of the two librettos, as well as those of the other known models of Un Ballo in Maschera.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-55
Number of pages15
JournalZealos: Studies in the Humanities, Social Sciences, Arts & Design
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • arts
  • performing arts
  • opera studies
  • musicology
  • theatre studies
  • Nineteenth century studies
  • Nineteenth century music
  • Nineteenth century literature and culture
  • creative industries


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