By Kai Teo
Photos: Maskeradbalen's webpage, Malmö Opera
Showing at: Malmö Opera now till 7 June 2016
The Masquerade Ball – a spectacular evening of infinite colours, heart-wrenching drama, and ballistic voices singing a language that I didn’t understand – actually taught me valuable lessons about life.
Allow me to first take you on a little walk into history.
The year is 1792, Stockholm. Horse-drawn carriages racket down the cobblestone streets lined with quaint family-owned stores. Marias Bageriet has just brought out its newly baked loaves of bread, filling the air with a toasted aroma, drawing the busy Stockholm street patrons through its doors, promising to tantalise the world’s senses.
In the Royal Palace, butlers rush along the corridors, carrying a colourful explosion of flowers, aged wine, exquisite tableware and polished silvers. While all in the Royal family, with the help of their loyal servants, dress themselves in their grandest dresses and most flamboyant suits, getting ready for the year’s biggest Royal Affair, the Masquerade.
The build-up to this grand event has already started a few months ago. But what we are now invited to witness, underneath the grandiose, is the dark, choking cloud of vicious jealousy, power, betrayal, and the ultimate tragedy of a hot-blooded bullet in the heart of King Gustav III.
The gripping drama was unfolding right in front of me. Words were a mangled symphony of over-the-top vocal expressions (everything was in Italian) that echoed not through language, but travelled straight to my core. The immense pain and anguish hit me deeply as the forbidden lovers were torn apart and a friendship was sunk in the stormy seas of distrust.
Everything was fucking dramatic. And everyone was always feeling stuff that compelled them to weep uncontrollably, sing at the top of their voices, or dance in intense delight.
And this, is the true richness of the human experience – the maximisation of every second, and the complete surrender to every emotion.
Once the curtains close, it seems that this intense beauty of life is left on stage, only to be felt once again when the spotlights turn on for the next show. We go back to the everyday, the mundane, and the “let’s talk about facts, not feelings” reality that we’ve created.
What happened to crying? What happened to loving someone so much that you feel you could cross oceans with a swim ring? What happened to the burning anger we feel every time when we see injustice?
It seems in today’s fast-paced, emotionally sterile system that we live in, we have decided that expressing our feelings to others render us weak, we have decided that those who feel extreme emotions need medication and not love, we celebrate lives not with hugs and tears, but with shots and beers.
Maskeradbalen reminds us to be human again, and not just a cog in today’s giant hamster wheel called “the economy”. It teaches us how to love bravely, regardless of anyone’s judgements. It reminds us to let our emotions flourish, whatever form they take, and embrace ourselves (minus the murder).
After all, isn’t all the world’s just a stage, and us, merely players?