Verdi’s opera Falstaff is a comic masterpiece
The name Giuseppe Verdi is likely to conjure up in the mind of the opera lover images of intense – even gritty – dramas. But his final masterpiece, “Falstaff,” comes from a far different realm: the world of comedy.
The titular character of Verdi’s compositional coup de grâce is Sir John Falstaff, a loud, drunken buffoon of a man who features in three Shakespeare plays: Henry IV parts one and two, as well as “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” Although his appearances are always played for a laugh, Falstaff is a character with real human dimension, something at which Shakespeare excelled and that Verdi and librettist Arrigo Boito carried through into the opera. Macky Auditorium will play host to that signature blend of comedy and depth on Oct. 27 and 29. This production of the College of Music’s Eklund Opera Program is overseen by Director Leigh Holman and Music Director Nicholas Carthy.
Verdi’s Falstaff is based primarily on “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” although it does draw a few scenes from “Henry IV, Part 1 and Part 2.” “Falstaff is a knight who needs more money for food and beer,” says Eklund Opera Program Director Leigh Holman. “What does he do? He decides to woo Alice Ford, a very wealthy woman, hoping to secure some dough for food and wine.”
Deciding two women are better than one, Falstaff additionally sets his sights on Alice’s friend, Meg. “Comedy ensues when Falstaff mistakenly thinks he’s as smooth as Don Juan and he goes after these rich women,” says Holman. “These women are sick and tired of being hit on and they make a game out of getting their revenge. It’s a comedic commentary on misogyny, power dynamics and girl power! You’ve gotta love that.”
It’s a work that has much to offer for seasoned operagoers and newbies alike. “For operatic veterans, you will see one of the most brilliant operas written by Verdi,” says Holman. “For newcomers to opera: You are going to have fun. You will have a rollicking good time, hear beautiful voices with athletic magnitude, a student orchestra that rivals any collegiate orchestra, lights, colors, and hilarity culminating in an epic experience. No other live performance genre can rival opera, and this is a great one to cut your teeth on.”
“In this comedy, Verdi’s last opera before his death, you will experience the brilliance of his musical magic and theatrical acumen come together in one comedic work. It is not to be missed.”
Tickets are now on sale for Eklund Opera Program production of “Falstaff” at Macky Auditorium Oct. 27 and 29, 2023.