[Met Performance] CID:310040
Falstaff {144} Metropolitan Opera House: 09/25/1992.

(Debut: Piero De Palma
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
September 25, 1992


FALSTAFF {144}
Giuseppe Verdi--Arrigo Boito

Sir John Falstaff.......Paul Plishka
Alice Ford..............Mirella Freni
Ford....................Bruno Pola
Dame Quickly............Marilyn Horne
Nannetta................Barbara Bonney
Fenton..................Frank Lopardo
Meg Page................Susan Graham
Dr. Cajus...............Piero De Palma [Debut]
Bardolfo................Anthony Laciura
Pistola.................James Courtney
Mistress of the Inn.....Carole Wright
Innkeeper...............Tim Willson

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

Production..............Franco Zeffirelli
Stage Director..........Paul Mills
Designer................Franco Zeffirelli
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler
Choreographer...........William Burdick

Falstaff received nine performances this season.

Revival gift of the Edith C. Blum Foundation

Review of Joseph H. Mazo in the Bergen Record

'Falstaff' rings true at the Met

"Falstaff," Giuseppe Verdi's last - and arguably greatest - opera, returned to the Metropolitan Opera House Friday night for the first time in more than five years in a joyous and utterly winning performance. In "Falstaff" the 80-year-old composer returned to themes that had occupied him throughout his career - not only musical ones (he often quotes and twits himself), but dramatic ones such as the conflict between personal passion and personal honor. However, to Shakespeare's (and Verdi's) Fat Knight, honor is "only a word" and passion, in a man so very old and astonishingly rotund, is likely to be more funny than fatal.

In Arrigo Boito's libretto - drawn from the "The Merry Wives of Windsor" and the two parts of "Henry IV" - the rising middle class triumphs over the decaying petty nobility. Master Ford easily tempts the penurious Falstaff with gold.The purse is mightier than the sword. However, even money meets its match in wit and keen sense and Ford's wish to marry his daughter to the wealthy Doctor Cajus cannot stand against the daughter's love and her mother's plotting mind. The male arsenal of weaponry, honor, wealth, and sexual conquest - celebrated in earlier Verdi operas - here is overwhelmed by the female armaments of common sense, domestic tranquility, and agile minds.

Yet contemporary trumpeters of "family values" might not be happy with "Falstaff"': Pomposity and self-promotion also are roundly ridiculed. The ultimate weapon, the ultimate joy, and the ultimate aim are all laughter. The music chuckles and chortles, snorts and snickers, roisters and rollicks. It also sings. Friday night, James Levine conducted with a light, sure touch, bringing out the lyrical qualities of the score that sometimes get lost in the buffoonery.

Paul Plishka, singing the title role for the first time at the Met, gave a wonderfully oversized performance. He found the lyricism in the role, as well as the frustration, the anger, and - perhaps most important of all - the unquenchable optimism that lets old, fat Sir John laugh at himself at the last and win our hearts forever. All dressed up - in finery that has seen better days - to go courting, tripping as lightly and fantastically as his bulk will permit, this Falstaff might almost be saying, with King Henry V, "Once more into the breach, dear friends." After the scene in which he has been dunked in the river, Plishka slinks on stage for his curtain call, trailing his sodden doublet and looking ready to burn down the opera house - if only he could find some dry matches.

Marilyn Horne made a gloriously gleeful Mrs. Quickly, relishing every moment of the plotting and singing with a lush, exciting sound. Mirella Freni, although she sounded at less than her best early on, mustered considerable beauty of tone later on, and her Alice Ford is a woman of warmth as well as wit, and compassion as well as comprehension. Bruno Pole was rough-voiced and unsubtle as Ford, but the frenzy of his great jealous aria, "E sogno," was dramatically valid, suggesting that even a normally sensible man can be driven nearly mad by an overdose of passion. Barbara Bonney was a delectably sweet-voiced Nanette, and Susan Graham made a captivating Mrs. Page, both vocally and dramatically.



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