Thursday, 3 April 1997
Falstaff (Opera Australia), April 3, 1997
by Giueseppe Verdi with libretto by Arrigo Boito
State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
April 3, 5, 8, 11, 16, 1997
Reviewed by Kate Herbert around April 1, 1997
Giuseppe Verdi turned 80 and decided that fifty years of tragedy was enough. He needed to write a comedy. He borrowed Sir John Falstaff from Shakespeare's Henry 1V and The Merry Wives of Windsor and made this "king of paunches", a jovial, carousing and lusty old lord, the central character of his experiment in Comedy.
He is better at tragedy, but Falstaff has its moments. Poor old self-deceiving Falstaff believes he is the heartthrob of two widows (Joan Carden & Rosemary Gunn) and proceeds to be humiliated by the pair and their cohorts.
Director, Simon Phillips production plays with the slapstick with some funny business from Jonathon Summers as Falstaff, Arend Baumann as Pistola and Christopher Dawes as a very funny Bardolfo.
Summers is a warm and colourful Falstaff with a fine baritone. The romantic sub-plot concerning the secret romance of Nanetta and Fenton, is sung extremely well by Emma Lysons and Anthony Elek.
The staging and design (Iain Aitken) are very traditional with an Elizabethan inn and houses and period costumes. The final fairy dell scene in which Falstaff is terrorised by fairies and goblins is a shift into a more mystical setting which breaks the pattern effectively.
The Victorian State Orchestra is once again in fine form with one of my favourite conductors, Carlo Felice Cilauro, keeping the peppy pace of this light and fluffy opera. It's all a bit of fun.