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About the opera
Verdi’s Falstaff is a comedy as wise as it is witty – a generous belly-laugh after a career of dark, knotty dramas. Inspired by Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, and particularly its larger-than-life hero Sir John Falstaff, Verdi’s opera collides English subtlety with Italian ebullience to create a perfect comic evening.
Ageing roué Sir John Falstaff decides to try his charms on not one but two of Windsor’s housewives. Amused at the audacity of this unlikely seducer, the women of the town all come together to teach him a lesson he’ll never forget…
Updated to a post-war Windsor of pompous ex-army officers, redoubtable Brownie leaders and lovesick GIs, Richard Jones’ production is less Tudor than mock-Tudor – an updating that brings a zany, sitcom energy to this classic comedy. Vladimir Jurowski conducts a cast led by British bass-baritone Christopher Purves.
Falstaff was captured live at Festival 2009. It is available on DVD from our shop.
Mimi Jordan Sherin
London Philharmonic Orchestra
The Glyndebourne Chorus
Sir John Falstaff
Mrs Meg Page
Mrs Alice Ford
Ann Ford (Nannetta)
Helen Atkinson Wood, Richard Dyball
Photos: Alastair Muir
At the Garter Inn, Dr Caius accuses Falstaff and his followers Bardolph and Pistol of various misdemeanours. They drive Caius away and Falstaff advises his men to steal more carefully. Falstaff, short on cash, hatches a scheme: to woo Alice Ford and Meg Page, thus gaining access to their husbands’ fortunes. He has written identical love letters to both ladies and sends Bardolph and Pistol off to deliver them.
At the Fords’ home, Alice Ford and Meg Page discover that they have received identical love letters from Falstaff. Along with Mistress Quickly and Alice’s daughter Nannetta, they resolve to teach Falstaff a lesson. Bardolph, Pistol, and Caius tell Ford that Falstaff has designs on his wife. Meanwhile, Fenton romances Nannetta. The four women decide to send Quickly to Falstaff with an invitation from Alice. Ford plans to lay a trap for Falstaff by visiting him under a false name.
Quickly visits Falstaff to arrange a tryst between him and Alice, and tells him that Meg also fancies him. After she leaves, Ford arrives, introducing himself as Mr Brook, and confides his failed attempts to woo Alice. He offers to pay Falstaff to seduce Alice, thereby making it easier for him to do so. Falstaff boasts that in half an hour Alice will be his, explaining that she has already requested a tryst. As Falstaff dresses for his rendezvous, Ford resolves to ambush Alice and Falstaff.
Quickly reports that Falstaff has accepted Alice’s offer. Nannetta complains that Ford is forcing her to marry rich old Caius, but Alice, Meg and Quickly pledge to help unite her instead with her beloved Fenton. Alice is left alone to receive Falstaff, who declares his passion for her. Meg arrives, feigning agitation because Ford is approaching. Falstaff hides, and it becomes apparent that Ford really is approaching. Ford enters and he and his men search the house. The women hide Falstaff in a laundry basket. Ford hears kissing behind a screen, tears it away and finds Fenton and Nannetta behind it. Alice orders the servants to dump the laundry basket into the Thames.
Outside the Garter, a drenched Falstaff consoles himself with wine. Mistress Quickly arrives with a new proposition: Alice will meet Falstaff in Windsor Park at midnight. He must be disguised as Herne the Hunter. When Falstaff leaves, Alice enters to plan the midnight masquerade, assigning disguises to all. Ford secretly tells Caius to dress as a monk, and he will marry him to Nannetta. Mistress Quickly overhears this.
In Windsor Park, Fenton meets Nannetta, who is disguised as Queen of the Fairies. Alice enters with a monk’s habit for Fenton to wear. Falstaff arrives as midnight chimes and Alice soon joins him. Falstaff is terrified by the incantation of the ‘Queen of the Fairies’. Soon, maskers disguised as supernatural creatures arrive and torment Falstaff, demanding that he repent. When Falstaff recognises Bardolph, everyone unmasks, except a veiled couple who step up to be married. Alice presents a second couple to be wed, and Ford performs the double wedding. When the couples are unveiled, Ford admits his defeat and proposes a festive supper for all.