Verdi's final opera - Falstaff - from the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, starring Bryn Terfel. Presented by Sean Rafferty in conversation with Verdi expert Dr Flora Willson.
Verdi's final opera, Falstaff, in a performance from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden starring Bryn Terfel.
After a string of successful operatic tragedies and melodramas, Verdi took his final leave of the stage with a quicksilver comedy that casts a wise but wry glance at the foibles of human nature. Falstaff, the fat knight, is full of vanity and self-deceit; but his attempts to seduce the merry wives of Windsor are carried out with such self-aggrandising swagger, confidence and sheer verve that he sweeps all before him. In ripe old age Verdi achieved an Indian summer in which the flow of melody and novel orchestration complemented every twist and turn of Shakespeare's riotous plot.
Presented by Sean Rafferty in conversation with Verdi expert Dr Flora Willson.
Sir John Falstaff ..... Bryn Terfel (bass-baritone)
Alice Ford ..... Ana María Martinez (soprano)
Ford ..... Simon Keenlyside (baritone)
Nannetta ..... Anna Prohaska (soprano)
Fenton ..... Frédéric Antoun (tenor)
Mistress Quickly ..... Marie-Nicole Lemieux (contralto)
Meg Page ..... Marie McLaughlin (mezzo-soprano)
Dr Caius ..... Peter Hoare (tenor)
Bardolph ..... Michael Colvin (tenor)
Pistol ..... Craig Colclough (bass-baritone)
Royal Opera Chorus
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Nicola Luisotti (conductor)
* 7.10 pm Act 2
* 7.55 pm Interval
* 8.15 pm Act3
Dr Caius bursts into Sir John Falstaff’s room in the Garter Inn, accusing him of unseemly behaviour the previous night. He further accuses Falstaff’s two henchmen, Bardolph and Pistol, of having robbed him while he was drunk. Unable to obtain reparations, Dr Caius leaves in a fury.
Falstaff informs Bardolph and Pistol that in order to repair his finances he plans to seduce Alice Ford and Meg Page, both wives of prosperous Windsor citizens.
Alice Ford and Meg Page laugh over the identical love letters they have received from Sir John Falstaff.
Ford arrives and learns of Falstaff’s plan to seduce his wife. He immediately becomes jealous. While Alice and Meg plan how to take revenge on their importunate suitor, Ford decides to disguise himself in order to pay a visit to Falstaff.
Feigning penitence, Bardolph and Pistol rejoin Falstaff’s service. They show in Mistress Quickly, who informs Falstaff that both Alice and Meg are madly in love with him.
Bardolph now announces that a ‘Mister Brook’ (Ford in disguise) wishes to speak to Falstaff. ‘Brook’ offers him wine and money if he will seduce Alice Ford, Falstaff agrees to the plan, telling his surprised new friend that he already has a rendezvous with Alice that very afternoon.
As Falstaff leaves to prepare himself, Ford gives way to jealous rage.
Mistress Quickly, Alice and Meg are preparing for Falstaff’s visit. Falstaff arrives and begins his seduction of Alice, nostalgically boasting of his aristocratic youth as page to the Duke of Norfolk. But just at that point Mistress Quickly suddenly returns in a panic to inform Alice that Ford really is on his way, and in a jealous temper.
The terrified Falstaff seeks a hiding place, eventually ending up in a large laundry basket. Fenton and Nannetta also hide. Hearing the sound of kissing, Ford is convinced that he has found his wife and her lover Falstaff together, but is furious to discover Nannetta and Fenton instead. To general hilarity, Falstaff is thrown into the River Thames.
A wet and bruised Falstaff laments the wickedness of the world, Mistress Quickly persuades him that Alice was innocent of the unfortunate incident at Ford’s house. In a letter which Quickly gives to Falstaff, Alice asks the knight to appear at midnight, disguised as the Black Huntsman.
Ford, Nannetta, Meg and Alice prepare the second part of their plot: Ford secretly promises Caius that he will marry Nannetta that evening. Mistress Quickly overhears them…
As Fenton and Nannetta are reunited, Alice explains her plan to trick Ford into marrying them. On the stroke of midnight, Alice appears. She declares her love for Falstaff, but suddenly runs away, saying that she hears spirits approaching.
Nannetta, disguised as the Queen of the Fairies, summons her followers who attack the terrified Falstaff, pinching and poking him until he promises to give up his dissolute ways. In the midst of the assault Falstaff suddenly recognizes Bardolph, and realizes that he has been tricked. Falstaff accepts that he has been made a figure of fun.
Dr Caius now comes forward with a figure in white. When the brides remove their veils it is revealed that Ford has just married Fenton to Nannetta, and Dr Caius to Bardolph! With everyone now laughing at his expense, Ford has no choice but to forgive the lovers, and bless their marriage. Before sitting down to a wedding supper with Sir John Falstaff, the entire company agrees that the whole world may be nothing but a jest filled with jesters, but he who laughs last, laughs best!