V for Verdi, V for Vendetta: in this dark take on dictatorship, terrorism and betrayal, everyonewears a mask.

Anyone who saw their landmark staging of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre in Adelaide in 2010 will know that Catalan “street theatre” company La Fura dels Baus take no prisoners. So who better to tackle Un Ballo In Maschera, Verdi’s operatic tale of dictatorship, conspiracy and assassination? On last night’s showing, Opera Australia can take plenty of credit for their part in creating a visually stunning, musically first-rate and dramatically provocative production.

Director Alex Ollé has taken as inspiration both Verdi’s struggle with 19th-century political censorship and the horrors of modern day totalitarianism. His sinister world, with its marginalisation of women, is redolent of Margaret Attwood’s post-apocalyptic novel  Handmaid’s Tale. Its closeted court reflects the claustrophobic sycophancy of the last days of Hitler. In Ollé’s world, everyone wears a mask (required by law?), from the influential elite to the dispossessed protester on the streets. Alfons Flores’ brutal yet paradoxically beautiful concrete sets create clinical spaces for the rich to display their power. Conversely, the poor are provided with shadowy regions on the margins of the stage, where they brood and agitate – echoes of the...