[Met Performance] CID:282020
Falstaff {130} Metropolitan Opera House: 09/25/1985.

(Debut: Giuseppe Taddei
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
September 25, 1985


FALSTAFF {130}
Giuseppe Verdi--Arrigo Boito

Sir John Falstaff.......Giuseppe Taddei [Debut]
Alice Ford..............Adriana Maliponte
Ford....................Brent Ellis
Dame Quickly............Fiorenza Cossotto
Nannetta................Mariella Devia
Fenton..................Dalmacio Gonzalez
Meg Page................Gail Dubinbaum
Dr. Cajus...............Charles Anthony
Bardolfo................Anthony Laciura
Pistola.................Ara Berberian
Mistress of the Inn.....Constance Webber
Innkeeper...............Merle Schmidt

Conductor...............James Levine

Production..............Franco Zeffirelli
Stage Director..........Bodo Igesz
Designer................Franco Zeffirelli
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler
Choreographer...........William Burdick

Falstaff received fourteen performances this season.


Review of Robert Croan in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Taddei's Met debut at 70 elevates 'Falstaff'

NEW YORK - The biggest success of the Metropolitan Opera's first week has been Verdi's "Falstaff," a revival of the still-beautiful production that marked Franco Zeffirelli's debut with the company in 1964.

This time around, there was an auspicious debut - that of the venerable Italian baritone Giuseppe Taddei, one of the major operatic figures of this century, nearly 70, and inexplicably overlooked by the Met up to this time. Taddei has recorded "Falstaff' twice, has sung it all over the world and will be on his way to do the role in Vienna when his present stint at the Met is over.

That Taddei's artistry would carry him through this plum of a role was a foregone conclusion. Every verbal nuance, every physical
nuance of the character was worked out to the ultimate detail. The surprise - though not entirely unsuspected by those who heard his more recent recording of this opera - was the superb state of Taddei's voice.

Amid a mostly youthful cast, Taddei shone, with his impressive personal magnetism and a booming vocal sound that quite dwarfed the lighter, less securely produced voices of his male colleagues. Taddei's fat knight was by turns funny, pompous, mildly vicious, ludicrously romantic, and ultimately very sad.

This, of course, is what makes Verdi's opera one of the greatest in the literature. Starting with "The Merry Wives of Windsor" (one of the lesser Shakespeare plays), librettist Arrigo Boito interwove the best Falstaff scenes from "Henry IV," Parts 1 and 2, to create an entity more dramatically satisfying than the Bard's original. And Verdi, who was 80 at the opera's premiere filled with bubbling melodies and never-ceasing exuberance unique to the operatic canon.

"Falstaff" is an ensemble opera, and much of the evening's success may be attributed to the expert, sparkling baton work of James Levine. Levine, who has become full artistic leader of the company, did not appear as conductor until the third night of the week, but surely he saved the best for last. The enormous music complexities of "Falstaff' were surmounted with ease under his ever-secure musical direction. And, in the presence of Levine and Taddei, the remainder of the cast outdid themselves in every way. The intricate quartet-quintet-nonet sequence in the second scene of Act 1 was lucid, musically accurate and piquantly comical from beginning to end, while the great "All the world's a stage" fugue that closes this opera was overwhelming in its effect.

Another veteran among them was Fiorenza Cossotto, whose booming mezzo was just right for Dame Quickly, and a perfect match for Taddei in their delightful "Reverenza" duet The younger Gail Dubinbaum exhibited a mezzo of almost comparable sonority as Meg Page, while Adriana Maliponte sang Alice Ford's lines with more distinction and tonal consistency than has been her wont in the course of her nearly two-decades at the Met.

Mariella Devia and Dalmacio Gonzales sounded fresher than they looked as the pair of lovers, Nanetta and Fenton. The weakest link was baritone Brent Ellis, weak of voice and demeanor, not at all up to the demands posed by the pivotal supporting role of Mr. Ford.



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