My second opera of last week (i'm rapidly developing a backlog here!) was Falstaff back at the good old Royal Opera House. Verdi's final opera and based on Shakespeare's the Merry Wives of Windsor and, I learnt this morning, Henry IV parts I and II, this was a brand new production to Covent Garden (soon to be travelling to La Scala in Milan as well). The staging was set in 1950s Britain with Sir John Falstaff as an aging aristocrat of days gone by and the merry wives as upwardly mobile post-war middle class Brits. The staging swung from wood paneled stately home, to 1950s suburban semi to Windsor Great Park, and even included a real life horse.
As anyone who has read any of my previous blogs on Verdi operas will know, I'm a BIG fan of the Italian master. This season I've seen La traviata (for the second time)Aida and Rigoletto (both for the first time) and have enjoyed them immensely. I did enjoy Falstaff, especially the music which was wonderfully conducted, but not as much as I've enjoyed his other work. I think in part I found the story a little hard to get a grip on, and I actually stopped following it towards the end. I think i'd tend to agree with a recent review I read in the Guardian about the third act being a bit laborious. It was at this point that I stopped engaging fully with the opera. The final moments were great through, especially the big rousing ending which was fun. In addition to not really following the story (perhaps I should have read the synopsis more fully) I'm also not a great fan of comic opera. As I've said in previous blogs, I find the gags don't always age that well. Whilst Falstaff didn't feel comic in the way some Rossini, Donizetti or Mozart operas do, some of the jollity passed me by I think.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking Falstaff. I enjoyed it overall. The music was great and brilliantly conducted and played out by the orchestra. The cast was also excellent and all deserved the loud cheer they received at the end of the show. The staging was also engaging. My problem lays with the story itself and potentially the opera itself. It just didn't grab me in the way other operas have and certainly not in the way other Verdi operas have. I feel that i'd like to give this one another go in a few years time when I've learnt a little bit more about it and the intentions of Verdi in composing it.
Seat: A28, Lower Slips, Amphitheater, £28 (I'm not really a fan of these seats for the price you pay. I think you're better off on a bench in the Upper Slips for around £9);
Synopsis: Falstaff (Wikipedia);
NEXT OPERA: Salome, 5th June