Falstaff Review 3
Fotos von Anthony Mario Bajada

Falstaff News 7Verdi's glorious final work.

by Cecilia Xuereb

The Sunday Times of Malta
Sunday 27th October 2013

 

In a letter to his librettist Boito, Verdi wrote: “What can I tell you? For forty years I have wanted to write a comic opera and for fifty years I have known The Merry Wives of Windsor.”  At last in 1892, practically at the end of his career he wrote his last and only comic opera Falstaff, another opera based on one of the plays of Shakespeare whose dramatic power he admired so much. Falstaff was staged at the Aurora Theatre on the 12th of October a production that Verdi, who was extremely particular about the staging of his works, would certainly have enjoyed.

"a production that Verdi… would certainly have enjoyed".

“The opera”, Verdi wrote, “is completely comic.”  But unlike the traditional opera buffa it gets its impact from the dramatic nature of the plot and characters which move hand in hand with the music. This artistic director Novella Tabili brought out fully in what is possibly her best production at the Aurora Theatre.  Against finely designed sets and wearing beautifully designed costumes her characters moved on the stage, their movements carefully choreographed and helping to ensure the right accentuation on the right syllables.   She was aided in this by a splendid group of singers all of whom looked at ease easily on the stage.

"Argentinian baritone Leonardo Lopez Linares dominated the stage both vocally and physically".

The main part is that of Falstaff, an attractive scoundrel who commits all sorts of malicious deeds, but in an entertaining manner and who sums up the spirit of the opera – both music and libretto – in his last intervention at the end of Act III: Everything in life is a joke ... he laughs best who laughs last. This part was played by the Argentinian baritone Leonardo Lopez Linares who dominated the stage both vocally and physically. His voice may not have been particularly rich and sonorous but it was technically excellent. In this he was supported by tenor Stefano Consolini and bass Gianluca Breda in the parts of Bardolfo and Pistola who gave excellent self-confident performances.

Not as extended but equally important is the part of Alice, who managed the entire intrigue of the comedy.  Eva Mei in this part had what Verdi wanted from his soprano - the devil inside her.  She held the stage expertly  and revealed a lovely agile voice full of vivacity and always right on the mark. Similar qualities were displayed by mezzo-soprano Elisabetta Fiorillo in the broadly comic role of Mistress Quickly.  She wedded song to action and showed a remarkable stage presence making sure that she accentuated precisely the right syllable. This was an old-fashioned comic personage who never got a curtesy or gesture wrong.

The love element was in the hands of soprano Anna Skibinsky in the part of Nannetta and tenor Filippo Adami in the part of Fenton.  Though not exactly sparkling on stage these two singers sang well, particularly in their duets as well as in what are two of the few arias in the opera.  Theirs was a lively merry love always disturbed and interrupted and always ready to begin again.

Furiously jealous, Ford (baritone Marzio Giossi) howled, shouted and stormed in the finale of the second act that was throughout very effective. He drew most of the attention to himself with Falstaff only getting it very rarely whenever he stuck his face out of the basket. His soliloquy in praise of jealousy in Act II part I was one of the great moments of the opera.

Falstaff is not an opera for individual singers: in fact there are hardly any arias, but most of the scenes consist in concertati and ensembles for which the main characters were joined by mezzo soprano Agata Bienkowska in the part of Meg Page and by tenor Manuel Pierattelli in the part of Dr Cajus. Nor are there great ­­­­­choruses or grand spectacle, except in a very restricted sense in the last scene when the choir of the Aurora Opera Choir took part in the ritual celebrations with which Falstaff is once humiliated once more. Tabili’s directorial skills were at their most conspicuous in the great last act and in the gloriously farcical scene of Falstaff and the linen basket.   

Musically the opera is one of Verdi’s greatest. It is marked by great variety: there is sparkle,  rapidity of utterance,  speed of movement and economy of means in the ensemble writing.  In it Verdi did away with the traditional opening Sinfonia or overture and plunges straight into the action.  The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Colin Attard immediately struck the right tone with a lively tempo that was retained throughout the performance. It was only at the beginning of the first scene that there was a tendency to obscure the voices on the stage.  As the voices warmed up the balance improved and the sparkle in the playing reflected the sparkle of the singing and acting on stage

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