Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Stars of Lyric Opera 2017, Millennium Park, Chicago

As a prelude to the 2017-18 season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, during the last weekend. A number of those who performed in this event will be featured in roles during the coming season.

A Verlaine Songbook

Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).

Die Zauberflöte at the ROH: radiant and eternal

Watching David McVicar’s 2003 production of Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House - its sixth revival - for the third time, I was struck by how discerningly John MacFarlane’s sumptuous designs, further enhanced by Paule Constable’s superbly evocative lighting, communicate the dense and rich symbolism of Mozart’s Singspiel.

A Mysterious Lucia at Forest Lawn

On September 10, 2017, Pacific Opera Project (POP) presented Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a beautiful outdoor setting at Forest Lawn. POP audiences enjoy casual seating with wine, water, and finger foods at each table. General and Artistic Director Josh Shaw greeted patrons in a “blood stained” white wedding suit. Since Lucia is a Scottish opera, it opened with an elegant bagpipe solo calling members of the audience to their seats.

This is Rattle: Blazing Berlioz at the Barbican Hall

Blazing Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust at the Barbican with Sir Simon Rattle, Bryan Hymel, Christopher Purves, Karen Cargill, Gabor Bretz, The London Symphony Orchestra and The London Symphony Chorus directed by Simon Halsey, Rattle's chorus master of choice for nearly 35 years. Towards the end, the Tiffin Boys' Choir, the Tiffin Girls' Choir and Tiffin Children's Choir (choirmaster James Day) filed into the darkened auditorium to sing The Apotheosis of Marguerite, their voices pure and angelic, their faces shining. An astonishingly theatrical touch, but absolutely right.

Moved Takes on Philadelphia Headlines

There‘s a powerful new force in the opera world and its name is O17.

Philly Flute’s Fast and Furious Frills

If you never thought opera could make your eyes cross with visual sensory over load, you never saw Opera Philadelphia’s razzle-dazzle The Magic Flute.

At War With Philadelphia

Enterprising Opera Philadelphia has included a couple of intriguing site-specific events in their O17 Festival line-up.

The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall

Three years into their MOZART 250 project, Classical Opera have launched a new venture, The Mozartists, which is designed to allow the company to broaden its exploration of the concert and symphonic works of Mozart and his contemporaries.

Philadelphia: Putting On Great Opera Can Be Murder

Composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell have gifted Opera Philadelphia (and by extension, the world) with a crackling and melodious new stage piece, Elizabeth Cree.

Mansfield Park at The Grange

In her 200th anniversary year, in the county of her birth and in which she spent much of her life, and two days after she became the first female writer to feature on a banknote - the new polymer £10 note - Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park made a timely appearance, in operatic form, at The Grange in Hampshire.

Elektra in San Francisco

Among the myriad of artistic innovation during the Kurt Herbert Adler era at San Francisco Opera was the expansion of the War Memorial Opera House pit. Thus there could be 100 players in the pit for this current edition of Strauss’ beloved opera, Elektra!

Mark Padmore on festivals, lieder and musical conversations

I have to confess, somewhat sheepishly, at the start of my conversation with Mark Padmore, that I had not previously been aware of the annual music festival held in the small Cotswolds town of Tetbury, which was founded in 2002 and to which Padmore will return later this month to perform a recital of lieder by Schubert and Schumann with pianist Till Fellner.

Turandot in San Francisco

Mega famous L.A. artist David Hockney is no stranger at San Francisco Opera. Of his six designs for opera only the Met’s Parade and Covent Garden’s Die Frau ohne Schatten have not found their way onto the War Memorial stage.

The School of Jealousy: Bampton Classical Opera bring Salieri to London

In addition to fond memories of previous beguiling productions, I had two specific reasons for eagerly anticipating this annual visit by Bampton Classical Opera to St John’s Smith Square. First, it offered the chance to enjoy again the tunefulness and wit of Salieri’s dramma giocoso, La scuola de’ gelosi (The School of Jealousy), which I’d seen the company perform so stylishly at Bampton in July.

Richard Jones' new La bohème opens ROH season

There was a decided nip in the air as I made my way to the opening night of the Royal Opera House’s 2017/18 season, eagerly anticipating the House’s first new production of La bohème for over forty years. But, inside the theatre in took just a few moments of magic for director Richard Jones and his designer, Stewart Laing, to convince me that I had left autumnal London far behind.

Giovanni Simon Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Robin Tritschler and Julius Drake open
Wigmore Hall's 2017/18 season

It must be a Director’s nightmare. After all the months of planning, co-ordinating and facilitating, you are approaching the opening night of a new concert season, at which one of the world’s leading baritones is due to perform, accompanied by a pianist who is one of the world’s leading chamber musicians. And, then, appendicitis strikes. You have 24 hours to find a replacement vocal soloist or else the expectant patrons will be disappointed.

The Opera Box at the Brunel Museum

The courtly palace may have been opera’s first home but nowadays it gets out and about, popping up in tram-sheds, car-parks, night-clubs, on the beach, even under canal bridges. So, I wasn’t that surprised to find myself following The Opera Box down the shaft of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe for a double bill which brought together the gothic and the farcical.

Proms at Wiltons: Eight Songs for a Mad King

It’s hard to imagine that Peter Maxwell Davies’ dramatic monologue, Eight Songs for a Mad King, can bear, or needs, any further contextualisation or intensification, so traumatic is its depiction - part public history, part private drama - of the descent into madness of King George III. It is a painful exposure of the fracture which separates the Sovereign King from the human mortal.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Giuseppe Verdi: Falstaff adapted by Tony Britten
17 Aug 2009

Verdi: Falstaff

Those opera lovers prone to rage at the perceived dominance of the director in their beloved art form today may collapse in apoplexy at this first release from the company called SignumVision.

Giuseppe Verdi: Falstaff adapted by Tony Britten

John Falstaff (Ian Jervis); Alice Ford (Jan Hartley); Francis Ford QC (Julian Forsyth); Doctor Cajus (Simon Butteriss); Bardolph: (Daniel Gillingwater); Pistol (Simon Masterton Smith); Mrs Quickly (Marilyn Cutts); Meg Page (Rosamund Shelley); Nanetta Ford (Katie Lovell); Fenton (Andy Morton).

Signum Vision SIGDVD001 [DVD]

$23.49  Click to buy

For this is, according to the booklet, “Falstaff in a new version by Tony Britten,” with the director’s name in huge font and below, barely in letter-size a third as big, “based on the opera by Verdi and Boito.” But Verdi and Boito might not object, as they could fairly claim any success this film version has and shrug off its less worthy aspects. After all, that same Tony Britten not only rewrote the libretto, but reorchestrated the score for a small ensemble, as well as serving, of course, as director.

Again, this is a filmed version, with the singers moving their lips to the pre-recorded soundtrack. Britten has set the action in a suburban (or borderline rural) golf club. Sir John has planted himself at the tiny club bar, with his two “henchmen” Bardolf and Pistol at a table nearby. Fenton is the golf pro, and the housewives are dedicated to the sport. Britten’s skill with the camera and his actors makes the film initially quite entertaining. Characters are well-delineated, and the seedy ambiance of this far-lying, older sport resort suits the action well enough. Even as a librettist, while no Boito, Britten has a fine ear for matching English inflection to Verdi’s rhythm’s, and some of the updating is fairly witty (the merry wives refer to themselves as “desperate housewives”). By the time of Sir John’s first date with the ladies, however, a sort of adolescent, sniggering approach to sexuality, familiar to US viewers through, say, “The Benny Hill Show,” curdles the cream, as it were. Sir John, instead of being dumped in the river, gets dumped in a trash dump. He reappears with a soiled baby diaper stuck to his back, and then pulls the corpse of a furry varmint from his pants. Well, many people found “The Benny Hill Show” uproarious, so…to each his own soiled baby diaper.

Purists will undoubtedly object, but Britten’ reorchestration captures much of the inventive charm of Verdi’s original. A keyboard lays down the basic harmonic fabric, and a small group of chirpy winds supplies the light-hearted thrust of Verdi’s score. Only in the final credits is there a credit for music direction (Jonathan Gill). The singers, whom the director admits were chosen more for their acting ability than vocal prowess, range from decent (Ian Jervis’s Sir John, Jan Hartley’s Alice Ford) or acceptable (Julian Forsyth’s Ford, Andy Morton’s Fenton) to strained (Katie Lovell’s Nanetta, especially at her top) and hooty (Marilyn Cutt’s Miss Quickly). They all get the words across efficiently, which is good, since there are no subtitles in any language offered by the disc. Words do tend tend to blur in ensemble numbers, unsurprisingly.

The booklet has no information on the score or the musicians whatsoever, although it has room for the director to expound on both the opera and his vision of it. A tiresome “making of” documentary adds little to interest to the set.

So, this Falstaff is well-filmed, amusingly acted, and adequately sung for the most part. If Britten hadn’t resorted to the lowbrow humor, his “new version” of Verdi and Boito’s masterwork could have made itself an enjoyable “addendum.” But as said above, to those who have to hold their sides when “Are You Being Served?” comes on the telly, no such objection will interfere with the tittering.

Chris Mullins

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):