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Falstaff at Florence 2006

Sir John Falstaff Ruggero Raimondi
Ford Manuel Lanza
Fenton Daniil Shtoda
Dottor Cajus Carlo Bosi
Bardolfo Gianluca Floris
Pistola Luigi Roni
Mrs. Alice Ford Barbara Frittoli
Nannetta Mariola Cantarero
Mrs. Quickly Elena Zilio
Mrs. Meg Page Laura Polverelli

Coro e Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Firenze
direttore Zubin Mehta

regia Luca Ronconi
scene Margherita Palli
costumi Carlo Maria Drappi
luci Guido Levi

The only live reviews of this ingenious Florence production I have found are in The Opera Critic and in Italian; in 2002 I had reviewed four Falstaffs. For Verdi DVDs (one other was Salieri's) Riccardo Muti's in a chamber opera version was my then recommendation. Please check out that report before reading on.

With the obvious attraction of Ruggero Raimondi as the fat Knight, and Barbara Frittoli a delightful Alice, this imaginative recreation merited more widespread notice, but now the admirable filming for TV and DVD should achieve due redress.

It exemplifies all the advantages of home viewing on DVD. With subtitles in language of choice you get more of the text and far more clearly than is possible in the opera house, notably here in the first scene with Falstaff and his punk henchmen. A lot of the concerted dialogue is usually smothered by the orchestra - and looking up or sideways at surtitles distracts from the stage action.


Here it all fits and you miss nothing, even in the complex ensembles which bring the first two acts to riotous, virtuosic conclusions.




The adaptable two-level staging is easily transformed for the different scenes, and the last act is given as a nightmare, with Falstaff imagining himself in his own bed in the forest, gullible as ever and falling into another trap...

Mehta has the Florence orchestra on the tip of its toes, ever responsive to the quicksilver changes; never a point blurred or lost. Climaxes are uninhibited and it is to the credit of the sound engineers that the balance to our ears was ideal. The ensemble singing and acting is perfect and all the characters are credible, although the young lovers do not look likely to be intimidated by crusty parents.


For the joyous final fugal chorus all the characters are assembled around the Garter Inn barrels which have ensured that Falstaff never became too sober.


A clear recommendation in a not too crowded field*; and DVD has the advantage that you can return to see it again as soon as you wish without going to Florence!



Peter Grahame Woolf

Illustrations copied from OperaClick.com and Drammaturgia.it

* Checking with Amazon suggests that maybe I exaggerate! Musical Pointers would welcome news of readers' own favourite DVDs of this my favourite comic opera. PGW