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Falstaff

Giuseppe Verdi 1813-1901

Commedia lirica in three acts
Libretto by Arrigo Boito based on Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor (1597) and King Henry IV (1597)
first performed February 9th 1893, Teatro alla Scala, Milan

Sung in Italian with German surtitles, c. 2hrs 45 mins, including one interval

Sir John Falstaff Željko Lučić
Ford James Rutherford
Fenton Martin Mitterrutzner
Nannetta, Elizabeth Reiter/Kateryna Kasper
Alice Ford Jessica Strong
Meg Page Paula Murrihy / Claudia Mahnke
Mrs Quickly Anna Larsson
Dr Cajus Hans-Jürgen Schöpflin
Bardolfo, Falstaff's servant Ralf Simon
Pistola, Falstaff's servant Barnaby Rea

It is hard to believe: with his 28th, and last opera, 80 year old Verdi reinvented himself again. Leaving all 19th century Italian operatic conventions behind, he had fun with them and quotes from his own works and some of his antipode, Richard Wagner. Seven years earlier Verdi had allowed himself to be seduced by Arrigo Boito into composing another opera based on Shakespeare - Otello. Keith Warner directed the work with a light hand in a versatile stage design based on the Globe Theatre on the banks of the Thames. In the end the fat knight Sir John, who was made to look a fool to pay him back for trying to court two married ladies in the hope of getting himself out of a tight financial corner, starts off the closing fugue: »Everything in the world is a joke.«

Falstaff and his henchmen Bardolfo and Pistola have settled in to the »Garter's Inn«. Dr. Cajus accuses Falstaff, in vain, of helping himself to his property, blaming Bardolfo and Pistola for getting him drunk and robbing him. Inspection of the pub's bill makes it clear that Falstaff is chronically short of funds. He plans to seduce Alice Ford & Meg Page, both married to rich gentlemen, to gain access to money. He has written them love letters. Bardolfo and Pistola refuse to deliver them - their honour forbids them being involved in duplicity. Falstaff chases them off. Alice reads Falstaff's love letter. Meg has received an identical one. Intending to give him a taste of his own medicine, they join forces with Alice's daughter Nannetta and Mistress Quickly, who is to invite Falstaff to a rendezvous with Alice. Another campaign of revenge is being hatched. Bardolfo and Pistola, who have changed sides, fan the flames of Ford's aversion to Falstaff and tell him about his plan. Ford intends to visit Falstaff under an assumed name and lure him into a trap. Act 2 Bardolfo and Pistola rejoin Falstaff. Mistress Quickly gives Falstaff Alice's invitation to visit her this afternoon. Falstaff congratulates himself on his undiminished irresistibility. A second caller arrives: Signor Fontana – Ford in disguise – with a lucrative offer. Fontana claims to be in love with Alice and asks Falstaff, as a lady-killer, to seduce Ford's wife. If her virtue is conquered once, then he might be in with a chance too. Falstaff accepts, saying that he already has a rendezvous with Alice. Ford, believing that his wife really is cheating on him, falls into a jealous rage. Quickly tells the others about her successful visit to the pub. Everything is prepared for Falstaff's visit. His wooing of Alice is interrupted, according to plan, by Quickly announcing Meg's arrival who, feigning alarm, warns that Ford is hurrying home. The joke falls flat: Ford really does appear. Falstaff hides among the dirty linen. Ford has the place searched, finding, behind the screen, his rival's likely hiding place, Fenton and Nannetta instead of Falstaff and Alice. The women have the dirty washing emptied into the moat. Act 3 Falstaff philosophises about the wickedness of mankind. Some mulled wine reconciles him with the world. Quickly persuades him to meet Alice again. This time he is to arrive at midnight, disguised as the „Black Huntsman“. Alice prepares everyone for their roles in a masquerade intended to finish Falstaff off completely. Ford promises Cajus that he will marry him to Nannetta if he disguises himself as a monk; luckily, this is overheard by Quickly. Longings of love draw Fenton, then Falstaff. Nannetta, as the Fairy Queen, leads a throng of spirits: villagers, who pronounce judgement on Falstaff, mock and torment him. He repents before seeing through the masquerade, recognising Bardolfo by the smell of brandy on his breath. Ford is about to marry Cajus to the Queen of the Fairies when Alice asks him to marry another couple too. Cajus kisses his bride, who turns out to be Bardolfo. Ford gives his blessing to Fenton and Nannetta. Falstaff leads the closing fugue: „Everything in the world is a joke“.

Revival
Friday
23rd September 2016
Start
7:30 pm
Venue
Opera House
Ticket Prices
A

Cast

Conductor
Julia Jones
Director
Keith Warner
Revival rehearsed by
Dorothea Kirschbaum
Stage Designer
Boris Kudlička
Costume Designer
Kaspar Glarner
Lighting Designer
Davy Cunningham
Chorus Master
Markus Ehmann
Dramaturge
Norbert Abels
Sir John Falstaff
Željko Lučić
Ford
James Rutherford
Fenton
Martin Mitterrutzner
Nannetta, Alice's daughter
Kateryna Kasper
Alice Ford
Jessica Strong
Meg Page
Paula Murrihy
Mrs Quickly
Anna Larsson
Dr. Cajus
Hans-Jürgen Schöpflin
Bardolfo, Falstaff's servant
Ralf Simon
Pistola, Falstaff's servant
Barnaby Rea
Mr Page
Christof M. Fleischer

Oper Frankfurt's Chorus
Frankfurter Opern- und Museumsorchester