October 11. 2013.
Falstaff is an operatic commedia lirica in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi, adapted by Arrigo Boito from Shakespeare’s plays The Merry Wives of Windsor and scenes from Henry IV. It premiered on 9 February 1893 at La Scala, Milan to great success.
Falstaff was Verdi’s last opera, written in the composer’s ninth decade, and was only the second of his 28 operas to be a comedy. It was also the third of Verdi’s operas to be based on a Shakespearean play, following his earlier Macbeth and Otello. (Verdi had also toyed with the idea of writing an opera based on King Lear, and Arrigo Boito later tried to interest him in Antony and Cleopatra, but neither project was ever brought to fruition.)
While it has not proved to be as immensely popular as the Verdi works that immediately preceded it, namely Aida and Otello, Falstaff has long been an admired favorite with critics and musicians because of its brilliant orchestration, scintillating libretto and refined melodic invention. It is in the standard repertoire of many opera companies.
William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon”. His extant works, including some collaborations, consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.
The Merry Wives of Windsor is a comedy by William Shakespeare, first published in 1602, though believed to have been written prior to 1597. The Windsor of the play’s title is a reference to Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England, and though nominally set in the reign of Henry IV, the play makes no pretence to exist outside contemporary Elizabethan era English middle class life. It features the character Sir John Falstaff, the fat knight who had previously been featured in Henry IV Parts 1 and 2. It has been adapted for the opera on several occasions.
Besides Verdi, Antonio Salieri wrote the opera buffa Falstaff (1799), with a libretto by Carlo Prospero Defranceschi, which also adapts the main story line of The Merry Wives of Windsor for the operatic stage.
The German composer Carl Otto Nicolai wrote an opera based on the comedy in 1849, Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor.
The English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote Sir John in Love, an opera based on this play in the years 1924–28.
Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi (1813 – 1901) was an Italian Romantic composer primarily known for his operas. Verdi is considered with Richard Wagner the most influential composer of operas of the nineteenth century and dominated the Italian scene after Bellini, Donizetti and Rossini. His works are frequently performed in opera houses throughout the world and, transcending the boundaries of the genre, some of his themes have long since taken root in popular culture, as “La donna è mobile” from Rigoletto, “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici” (The Drinking Song) from La traviata, “Va, pensiero” (The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves) from Nabucco, the “Coro di zingari” from Il trovatore and the “Grand March” from Aida.
December 14. 2013. Cineplex Theatres Live from the Met series. Encores: January 18. & 20. 2014.