[Met Performance] CID:197910
Falstaff {74} Metropolitan Theater, Boston, Massachusetts: 04/13/1964.

(Review)


Boston, Massachusetts
April 13, 1964


FALSTAFF {74}
Giuseppe Verdi--Arrigo Boito

Sir John Falstaff.......Anselmo Colzani
Alice Ford..............Gabriella Tucci
Ford....................Mario Sereni
Dame Quickly............Regina Resnik
Nannetta................Judith Raskin
Fenton..................Luigi Alva
Meg Page................Rosalind Elias
Dr. Cajus...............Mariano Caruso
Bardolfo................Andrea Velis
Pistola.................Norman Scott

Conductor...............Leonard Bernstein

Review of Michael Steinberg in the Boston Globe

Met's 'Falstaff' Magic, Electric All the Way

A couple of weeks ago I wrote, "The Metropolitan Opera's new production of Verdi's "Falstaff," organized dramatically by Franco Zeffirelli, and musically by Leonard Bernstein, is a landmark in the American theater." Seeing the production for the third time, when the Metropolitan opened its Boston season at the Music Hall on Monday night, could only serve strongly and excitingly to reinforce that impression.

There is a special magic in the theater - everyone recognizes it - when a performance really goes right, and Monday's "Falstaff" had such magic. Everything was electrically live from beginning to end, so much so that Falstaff could triumph even over the monstrous theater - than which nothing could be less suited to it - and could work its spell even across the outsize intermissions during which it is so easy for one's sense of participation, one's enthusiasm, to dissipate.

Anselmo Colzani has grown into the title role impressively since I saw him in New York at the beginning of March. His interpretation is very different from that of Geraint Evans, who I had seen more recently, but as satisfying.

Colzani's Falstaff is not as complex as that of Evans, and it quite lacks the sharpness, the quickness, that "arguzia" of which Sir John speaks, that makes the Evans portrayal so striking. Colzani is also less word and rhythm-conscious, perhaps not quite so musical in his approach. His Falstaff is broadly played, and he makes the character rather stupid, or at least fatuous.

He does, however, develop a warmth that lends richness to the finale, and he acts with assurance and flair. He makes superb entrances: he makes great effect when he comes to visit Mrs. Ford, and in his previous scene with Ford, when he comes in his courting clothes, first as an almost abstract vision of white belly perceived on the balcony of the Garter Inn, that is a moment not to be forgotten. And the voice itself sounds warm and rich through the whole extravagant range Verdi asks.

The remainder of the cast has played together in every performance the Metropolitan has given this season, and it shows. The quartet of Mmes. Tucci, Raskin, Resnik Elias, is by now polished like one of the great instrumental chamber ensembles.

The male character parts are well taken by the Messrs. Caruso, Veils, and Scott,
though I do find now that there is something excessively sick about the sort of rodent, or is it simian, interpretation of Bardolfo that Zeffirelli has imposed upon Velis, and which is, by the way, really virtuosically realized.

Mario Sereni's Ford was, in this performance, an exciting surprise. He had previously seemed intelligent, hard-working, vocally attractive, but still had hardly managed to go beyond stock histrionics. This time he caught fire, and his jealousy monologue, helped immeasurably by Bernstein's piercingly alert guidance, was of gripping intensity. But throughout, not just in anger, but also in irony, in the playacting as Master Brook, and as heavy husband and father, Sereni made a good Ford.

Luigi Alva is a delight as Fenton, a singer with passion, but with taste as well, and with a personal vibrancy that wove just the proper sort of web of tenderness and excitement about every one of his love scenes with his Nannetta. And as for Judith Raskin, I cannot review her: I only want to write her love letters. And my regard increases constantly for Gabriella Tucci, who keeps a constant flow of life, warmth, and invention in an extremely difficult role that hasn't one obvious sure-fire feature.

The Metropolitan's casting of "Falstaff" has been brilliant, but, what makes these people good, that is, even better than they are, is what they are getting from the pit. Not every moment needs the emphasis and drive Bernstein emanates, but still I think I would have to go back more than a dozen years to Fritz Reiner's "Elektra" to find an equal achievement in theater conducting.

Bernstein has found how to relax into tenderness within the framework of the speediest opera ever written. He gets brilliance, and playing of an enchanting lightness and grace.

As Zeffirelli is responsible for all the wonderful things we see, so is Bernstein responsible, and wholly, for letting us hear Verdi's miracles so beautifully. If we ever experience such an evening in the theater again, it will be almost more than we deserve.



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