Monday, April 07, 2008

New York City Opera – Verdi's Falstaff, April 5, 2008.

New York State Theater at Lincoln Center – Orchestra, Seat M107 ($96).

Conductor – George Manahan; Dr. Caius – Joel Sorensen, Sir John Falstaff – Jan Opalach, Bardolfo – Jeffrey Halili, Pistola – Eric Jordan, Meg Page – Heather Johnson, Alice Ford – Pamela Armstrong, Dame Quickly – Ursula Ferri – Nannetta, Anna Skibinsky, Fenton – John Tessier, Ford – Timothy Mix.

Story. Falstaff writes identical love letter to Meg Page and Alice Ford, and asks his friends Bardolfo and Pistola to deliver, which they refuse to do. The ladies realize what Falstaff is up to, and cook up a plan to humiliate him. Dame Quickly is sent to see Falstaff and invites him to meet Alice at her house. When Falstaff shows up, Mr. Ford shows up and Falstaff hides in the laundry and subsequently gets tossed into the Thames, to the amusement of all. Dame Quickly then invites Falstaff to the park which is known to be haunted. Children disguised as gremlins torment him when he shows up, until he promises to change his ways. Meanwhile, Nannetta and Fenton trick Mr. Ford into blessing their marriage. Dr. Caius, whom Ford favors, is instead paired up with Bardolfo! At the end, everyone agrees that “all the world's a jest.”

The opera was Verdi's last, written when he was 76 years old. Verdi wrote three operas based on Shakespeare's plays, and by happenstance we saw all of them this season (Macbeth and Otello are the other two).

I am not a great fan of comedy, but did find this opera quite amusing. Our tickets were 20% off list (although one can probably get them cheaper on the day of the show), and we got very good seats.

The sets are typical New York City Opera – simple, and functional. Anne is quite sure the sets had been used in other NYC operas, I don't remember that. When I was searching the web for information on this opera, I saw much more elaborate sets (e.g., by the Chicago Lyric Opera). The sets seem to affect the projection of the voices quite a bit though. In the relatively confined setting of a room in the inn, the voices projected very well, but in the more open garden setting, the singing was a bit weak.

The artists generally acquitted themselves well. We especially enjoyed Nannetta's singing. The acting was quite good also. Comedy is very dependent on timing (or so I hear), and the timing was generally good.

For us, a disappointment is there are not too many singable tunes in this opera. This is actually true of all three Shakespeare-play-based operas by Verdi. Macbeth and Otello, however, are captivating dramas in which one is easily engrossed. For a comedic opera, I would have enjoyed more singable tunes. The applauses during the acts were not that frequent as a result.

The famous line “he who laughs last, laughs best” concludes this comic opera. This is delivered as a complex fugue involving as many as eight soloists.

See the generally favorable New York Times review of this production.

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