Who was behind the mask?

Khachaturian’s Masquerade Suite is one of the main pieces in our “In Disguise” Camden children’s concert and it inspired our “In Disguise” theme.

So what’s it about?

It was written as incidental music for the play Masquerade by the Russian Romantic writer Lermontov, which is often compared to Othello.  And it’s a sad story!

masquerade play.png
A scene from “Masquerade” play at the Alexandrinsky Theatre, St Petersburg in 1938. Source: Press photo

In 1830s St. Petersburg, aristocrat Arbenin and his wife Nina attend a masquerade ball. In a tragic case of mistaken identity, Arbenin convinces himself that his wife is romantically involved with Prince Zvezdich.


At the ball, Prince Zvezdich is flirting with a dissolute lady, a baroness who is a friend of Nina. But because of the masks no-one knows who she is. The mystery lady gives Zvezdich her bracelet as a memento – but it’s a bracelet that once belonged to Nina. Arbenin recognises it and concludes that his wife is the shady lady behind the mask and is cheating on him.

Arbenin kills his wife but then learns that she was in fact innocent. Realising that he has murdered his beloved wife in error,  he becomes insane.

The play was banned in Lermontov’s time by censors and is rarely performed, but the suite it inspired became one of Khachaturian’s best known works.

Come and hear it and lots more fantastic music at our “In Disguise” Camden children’s concert on 25th November.

ERSO CTO November 2018 flyer version 2


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