Un Ballo in Maschera is a problem child from Verdi’s lesser performed operas, or at least it seems to be when considering recent productions.

And this David Pountney offering, while highly theatrical and fun, also misses the spot in leaving us cold and unmoved by the tragedy.

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(Picture: Bill Cooper)

This is all despite the most glorious conducting by Carlo Rizzi, characteristically splendid work from the chorus and a cast that relishes the gifts given to them by the composer.

The result is an evening of musical passion, some passionate acting from the players, but a passionless experience where artifice and novelty, playing around with concepts and conceits, replace chemistry between the artists and emotion from their plights.

It is all played as just that, a performance on the stage directed by the leading man, Riccardo sung with verve by Gwyn Hughes Jones, as he plays tricks and japes on his courtiers, from first appearing rising from a coffin to finally literally directing a look-a-like at the eponymous masked ball assassination scene. His fatal amour for Amelia, beautifully taken by Mary Elizabeth Williams, becomes a sideshow.

His side kick, bouncy courtier Oscar, is dressed in irritating leather-look outfit, manipulating the characters in this black comedy, or so it is presented, mainly set inside a cinema where men in white tie and tails trail around like a Ziegfeld show and now and then produce a Pountney hop.

The cast played along with the Pountney follies: a rich Renato from Roland Wood and a sprightly Oscar from Julie Martin du Theil joined by an over the top Ulrica from Sara Fulgoni.

The creative team for this style over substance show, directed by Pountney, designed and lit by Raimund Bauer, Marie Jeanne Lecca and Fabrice Kebour, was coolly received by the audience in contrast to the curtain call reception for the singers and musicians.

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(Picture: Bill Cooper)

Welsh National Opera's Un Ballo in Maschera will be at Wales Millennium Centre until February 23.

By Mike Smith