11 Oct 2009

NICOLAI: Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor — Berlin 1943

Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (The Merry Wives of Windsor), a comical-fantastical opera in three acts with dance.

Music composed by Otto Nicolai (1810-1849). Libretto by Salomon Hermann von Mosenthal after the play of the same name by William Shakespeare.

First performance: 9 March 1849 at Königliches Opernhaus, Berlin.

Principal Characters

Sir John Falstaff Bass
Herr Fluth Baritone
Herr Reich Bass
Fenton Tenor
Junker Spärlich Tenor
Dr. Cajus Bass
Frau Fluth Soprano
Frau Reich Mezzo-soprano
Anna Reich Soprano

Time and Place

Windsor (England) during the reign of Henry V (1413-1422).


Act I

Scene One

Setting: A court.

Frau Fluth informs her friend, Frau Reich, that she has received a letter from the fat knight, Sir John Falstaff. Mrs. Reich received the same letter. Outraged, they plot revenge against Falstaff. They leave.

Herr Fluth and Herr Reich enter along with two would-be suitors of Anna Reich, Junker Spärlich and Dr. Cajus. The penniless Fenton enters proclaiming his love for Anna and asks for her hand. He is summarily rejected.

Scene Two

Setting: Herr Fluth’s home.

Frau Fluth awaits Falstaff. She and Frau Reich have sent an anonymous note to Herr Fluth informing him of the meeting with Falstaff. A large basket is brought in. A frightened Falstaff is later stuffed into the basket and dumped into the Thames.

Act II

Scene One

Setting: A tavern.

Disguised as one Herr Bach, Herr Fluth visits Falstaff at the Garter Inn. He seeks Falstaff’s assistance in gaining the favor of Frau Fluth. Fluth discovers that Falstaff had been at his home the previous day and that Frau Fluth had invited him to visit her again that afternoon.

Scene Two

Setting: A garden.

Junker Spärlich and Dr. Cajus plan to meet Anna during her daily walk. When Fenton appears, they hide. Anna and Fenton reaffirm their love for one another.

Scene Three

Setting: Frau Fluth’s room.

When Falstaff arrives, Frau Reich tells him that Herr Fluth is approaching. The women disguise Falstaff as an old woman, a relative of Frau Fluth’s maid. Herr Fluth has forbidden her presence in his home and beats her mercilessly. He then searches for Falstaff without success.


Scene One

Setting: Herr Reich’s home.

The wives have informed their husbands of Falstaff’s letters. Herr Fluth has been forgiven his unwarranted jealousy. They devise another trick to play against Falstaff. There is to be a masquerade. Falstaff is to meet the wives costumed as Herne, the legendary hunter. Frau Reich gives Anna a costume of a red elf to wear so that Dr. Cajus will recognize her. After Frau Reich leaves, Herr Reich enters with a green elf costume for Anna to wear so that Junker Spärlich will recognize her. Anna decides to give the costumes to Dr. Cajus and Junker Spärlich to wear. She will run off with Fenton.

Scene Two

Setting: Windsor Forest.

The townspeople, disguised as spooks and spirits, await Falstaff. Falstaff appears as Herne with large antlers on his head. Frau Reich and Frau Fluth arrive. When the ghosts approach, the wives run away. Terrified, Falstaff tries to hide. However, he is pinched, stabbed and mocked. Falstaff repents. The masqueraders reveal themselves. All are in merriment.

Click here for the complete libretto.