THE INCREDIBLE OPERA OF FALSTAFF
Giuseppe Verdi's comedic operatic work is amongst one of the great composer's best loved works. Based in part around the Shakespeare plays of The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV, the opera is now recognised as something of a classic. After an initial reluctance from theatre goers to warm to the themes and melodies found within, the opera has received praise and respect since the 1930s onwards. The many studio recordings and live performances based around the world have brought it to the attention of opera lovers everywhere.
Verdi's comedic opera is set in Windsor, England at the end of the 14th Century. It is largely concerned with the humorous consequences of the arrogance and bluster of the central character as he attempts to seduce two married ladies. The hilarious twists in the plot can act as a symbol for the ongoing confusion in human nature and the timeless class struggles and problems of identity that remain consistent and relevant today.
The first act details Falstaff's attempts to woe the married Alice Ford and Meg Page with letters of love. He attempts to enlist the help of his friends Bardolfo and Pistola to deliver the letters. The men refuse, but the letters still manage to find their way to the ladies in question. The situational comedy of such action provides the ideal starting point for the opera.
The misunderstandings and dramatic comedy are intensified in the second act as Alice Ford's husband becomes embroiled in the story. He hatches a plan with Bardolfo and Pistola to discredit their former friend by conspiring to make him look ridiculous in his pursuit of Alice. However, Ford is himself taken in by the emotional confusion of love and is soon sick with anger at Falstaff's desire for his wife.
The culmination of the amusing cross purposes and miscommunication arrives once Ford realises his error in judgement in suspecting his wife of an affair. In working out the perfect punishment for the fat foolish knight, the crux of the opera is wonderfully delivered. Dealing with a light touch the essential motivations and romantic impulses of human relationships, Verdi is able to bring a timeless story of passion, crossed wires and tomfoolery to the world stage. Leaving the audience with a sense of happy goodwill in the face of the perplexities of life, the opera can be counted on to raise the spirits.
Sir John Falstaff, a fat arrogant knight, baritone
Ford, a rich man, baritone
Alice Ford, his wife, soprano
Nannetta, their daughter, soprano
Meg Page, a wealthy married woman, mezzo-soprano
Fenton, one of Nannetta's suitors, tenor
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Falstaff | 3 Performances
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