Falstaff as farce

Verdi’s Falstaff, of course, is a farce so there’s no reason why a director shouldn’t treat it as one but all three of the other productions I’ve seen in the last few years have transposed it to the 1950s and put a spin on it.  Sven-Eric Bechtolf, in his production for the 2021 Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, just doesn’t do that.  It’s a 1590s (ish) setting and it’s played very broad.  There are big costumes, big gestures, entrances and exits and characters “hidden in plain view”.  It could be Dario Fo or Brian Rix.

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Alagna and Gheorghiu in L’elisir d’amore

Shortly after their marriage in 1996 Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna appeared together in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at Opéra de Lyon.  At the time she was 31 and he was 33 so pretty much ideal for the roles.  The production was directed by Frank Dunlop.  It’s straightforward, set in the 1920s and essentially traditional though there are a few nice touches.  It’s what the recent COC production might have been if the asinine attempts to be “relevant” had been ditched.

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Guillaume Tell

Rossini’s last opera, Guillaume Tell, was written for Paris and is an extremely ambitious piece of great musical sophistication.  It’s also very long.  Performed uncut, a rarity, it runs something like four hours including ballets.  It’s also hard to cast with the role of Arnold Melcthal in particular making unusual demands.  It’s a high tenor role combining the flexibility needs of a typical Rossini role with something much more heroic.  The soprano role of Mathilde has some of the same issues; signature Rossini coloratura is combined with the sort of dramatic heft one might more associate with early Wagner.

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