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.
The sudden death of Italian opera has always intrigued me. Works, by Italians or to Italian libretti, dominated opera houses, at least in the English speaking world, for centuries. The Metropolitan Opera even commissioned new work in Italian (Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West, 1910). But after Turandot (1924) new works in Italian pretty much dried up. I can’t think of a single one that could be considered a repertory staple and even more recherché pieces like Pizzetti’s Assassinio nella Cattedrale are few and far between. Indeed, since WW2 at least, the dominant language for new operas has been English with German some way behind and the odd work in French or something more obscure. So, I was intrigued to get my hands on a recording of Luca Mosca’s 2007 work Signor Goldoni; a commission for Venice’s La Fenice inspired by the 18th century Venetian playwright and librettist Carlo Osvaldo Goldoni. What’s really surprising is that the libretto (perhaps we should say “book”) by Italian writer Gianluigi Melaga, is in English! Apparently librettist and composer consider that English is better adapted to the kind of word play they were aiming for than Italian.