Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Guillaume Tell in Monaco

Peasants revolt in a sea of Maserati and Ferrari’s.

LA Opera Presents Figaro 90210

Figaro 90210 is Vid Guerrerio’s modern version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo DaPonte’s 1786 opera, The Marriage of Figaro.

Tristan und Isolde at the Wiener Staatsoper

David McVicar’s production of Wagner’s seminal music drama runs aground on the Cornish coast.

Songs of Night and Travel, Wigmore Hall

The coming of ‘Night’ brings darkness, shadows and mystery; sleep, dreams and nightmares; fancies, fantasies and passions.

Andrea Chénier, Royal Opera

Umberto’s Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, now at the Royal Opera House, is no more about history than Jesus Christ Superstar is about theology.

Yevgeny Onegin in Warsaw

Mariusz Treliński’s staging of Tchaikovsky’s operatic masterpiece is visually fascinating but psychologically confusing

Orfeo at the Roundhouse, Royal Opera

The regal trumpets and sackbuts sound their bold herald and, followed by admiring eyes, the powers of state and church begin their dignified procession along a sloping walkway to assume their lofty positions upon the central dais.

Idomeneo in Montpellier

Vestiges of a momentous era . . .

L’elisir d’amore in Marseille

There were hints that L’elisir is one of the great bel canto masterpieces.

Das Liebesverbot opens the new season at Teatro Verdi in Trieste

Aron Stiehl’s production of this rare early Wagner opera cheerfully brings commedia dell’arte to La Cage aux Folles.

Amsterdam: Lohengrin Lite

Stage director Pierre Audi is not one to be strictly representational in his story telling.

Fidelio, Manitoba Opera

For the first time in its 42-year history, Manitoba Opera presented Beethoven’s mighty ode to freedom, Fidelio, with an extraordinary production that resonated as loudly as tolling bells of freedom.

The Hilliard Ensemble: Farewell Concert at Wigmore Hall

Forty-one years is a long time for any partnership to be sustained and to flourish — be it musical, commercial or marital! And, given The Hilliard Ensemble’s ongoing reputation as one of the world’s finest a cappella groups, noted for their performances of works dating from the 11 th century to the present day, it must have been a tough decision to call an end to more than four decades of superlative music-making.

Fidelio opens new season at La Scala

Daniel Barenboim makes a triumphant departure as direttore musicale del Teatro alla Scala with Beethoven’s operatic masterpiece.

Mahler Songs: Christian Gerhaher, Wigmore Hall

Star singer and star composer, a combination guaranteed to bring in the fans. Christian Gerhaher sang Mahler at the Wigmore Hall with Gerold Huber. Gerhaher shot to fame when he sang Wolfram at the Royal Opera House Tannhäuser in 2010.

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House — a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, Wigmore Hall

O Maria Deo grata — ‘O Mary, pleasing to God’: so begins Robert Fayrfax’s antiphon, one of several supplications to the Virgin Mary presented in this thought-provoking concert by The Cardinall’s Musick at the Wigmore Hall.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Andrew Shore in the title role of Falstaff, part of Lyric Opera of Chicago's 2007-08 season. Photo by Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago.
03 Feb 2008

Verdi's Falstaff at Chicago

There is nothing redeeming about Sir John Falstaff, one of Shakespeare’s most lively comic characters and the subject of Verdi’s final opera, and yet, inexplicably, we love him.

Giuseppi Verdi: Falstaff
Civic Opera House, January 28, 2008

Above: Andrew Shore in the title role of Falstaff, part of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2007-08 season. All photos by Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago.

 

A bloated, insult-wielding drunkard who finds himself suddenly broke, he seeks to free himself from debt by wooing two wealthy women—both with the exact same love letter. When Alice Ford and Meg Page, the ladies in question, discover that they are being played for fools, they band together with the help of their friend Mistress Quickly and plan to dupe Falstaff. The musical result is one of the rare occasions when comic opera is actually funny. Played, as such evenings often are, to the blind in the 10th balcony, the laughs at Lyric are more often than not collective good-natured chuckles than guffaws of genuine surprise. Still, on opening night, the audience clearly enjoyed the opera’s style of comedy, investing in the show and audibly rooting for its favorite characters. This notion is further reinforced by Frank Phillipp Schlössmann’s Globe Theatre-inspired sets, which immediately transplant the audience into a world where a broader method of presentation is the norm. Costumes were traditional, but the bold colors contrasted beautifully with the amber-toned sets.

An audience can expect a thoroughly enjoyable evening of theatre—even if there are slight problems with the production—with a Falstaff from a top-notch company like Lyric Opera of Chicago. Picky imperfections in performance pale in the shadow of the brilliance of the work itself, obviously a labor of the composer’s love.

Like any comedy, a Falstaff is only as strong as its sense of ensemble, and, in something of a coup, by utilizing the brightly burning talents of current members of the Ryan Opera Center and supplementing them with the Center’s alumni, the administration has gathered a group of artists used to working with each other and who, out-singing most of the imported stars of the evening, present a tidy troupe. Even though director Olivier Tambosi fails to tighten the comic timing to sharp punctuality, the general mirth on stage more than carries the evening’s entertainment. Once again stepping forward with her booming voice, Meredith Arwady sparkles as Mistress Quickly, and her “Riverenza” scene inspired most of the genuine laughs of the evening. Elizabeth DeShong’s Meg Page is sprightly and attractive of voice. Of the current Ryan Opera Center’s roster, the most notable singer in this opera is Bryan Griffin, whose turn as Fenton is marked by a lyric tenor voice of both sweetness and strength, and Ryan Center alum Stacey Tappan’s crystalline Nannetta soars opposite Mr. Griffin. David Cangelosi, whose character tenor roles are well known at Lyric for their physicality, seems positively subdued next to the boisterous commedia dell’ arte characterization of fellow alumnus Rodell Rosel’s Bardolfo.

Falstaff_Chicago2.pngAlice Ford (Veronica Villarroel, third l.) describes her plan to feign interest in Falstaff's wooing as Meg Page (far l.), Nanetta (second l.), and Mistress Quickly (far r.) listen with delight in Lyric Opera of Chicago's 2007-08 production of Falstaff.

Though not advertised as Megastars, one would expect the leads of this production to outshine the ensemble easily, but such was not the case. As Alice, Veronica Villaroel is not the plastic prima donna spinning measure after measure of line while ignoring the baser nature of the material; the Chilean soprano found some joy in even the subtler moments of the comedy. Neither is Villaroel the soprano with very little in the way of voice, but with star power to burn. (In fact, she sang Alice with no apparent strain.) Villaroel lands this role instead somewhere in the unfortunate pleasant-enough middle ground and manages neither to offend nor excite. Similarly, Andrew Shore in the title role perhaps does not have the wherewithal to color more lyrical moments with the vocal subtlety he intends; however, he does make a convincing Falstaff, barking and seducing at regular intervals. The audience may forgive the slow moving actor because of the additional costuming required to render him obese, but his physical comedy fell short of the standard set by other members of the cast. Boaz Daniel, on the other hand, as Signore Ford, turns in a thoroughly engaging vocal performance, his robust and appealing baritone easily launching itself expressively over the orchestra for his aria “È sogno? O realtà…”

Andrew Davis, conducting what the official press release calls his ‘’favorite Verdi opera”, keeps the evening well paced in this reviewer’s opinion. His tempi, though, may have been a little slow for those on stage; the singers consistently tried to rush the Act One finale. Granted: the Act One finale is incredibly difficult to keep together, and the cast does a noble job of trying, perhaps, though, it could stand to watch the bouncing head of hair up front a little more. Still, the opera itself is sung very well across the board, the stagecraft solid, and the evening spent in the Civic Opera House absorbing Verdi’s last masterpiece is well spent.

Gregory Peebles © 2008

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):