Opera Abbreviated: Falstaff

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Opera Abbreviated Podcast by Classical 101(Photo: WOSU)
Opera Abbreviated Podcast by Classical 101(Photo: WOSU)

Verdi’s Falstaff  will be shown live from the Metropolitan Opera in movie theaters worldwide on Saturday, December 14, at 1 PM. This is a new production staged by Robert Carsen and conducted by James Levine.

Giuseppe Verdi’s second opera was called U giorno di regno, usually translated as King for a Day. It was a comedy, and it was a resounding flop. It nearly derailed Verdi’s career just as he was getting started. Small wonder the composer, who was not noted for his sense of humor, stayed away from comedy. La traviata, Rigoletto, Aida, Otello, not a lotta yuks in these glorious operas.

In 1891 Verdi was protesting to everyone in earshot that at the age of 80 he was finally completely retired. He had emerged a few years earlier to compose Otello. That opera’s sensational success didn’t inspire Verdi to return to the arena full-time. So he said.

Librettist composer Arrgio Boito had other ideas. Boito had brilliantly adapted Shakespeare’s Othello for Verdi. He did not want the eminent composer, the glory of Italy, to fade away. It was time for one more opera, this time a comedy. The source was again Shakespeare, not one play but two: The Merry Wives of Windsor and both parts of  Henry IV .  Verdi called Shakespeare “That artist who I revere above all others”. If one character could tempt the elderly Verdi, it was Shakespeare’s Sir John Falstaff:  

Remember, as Shakespeare, Verdi and Boito tell us: Tutto nel mondo e burla…The whole world is crazy!