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Verdi Falstaff

Mirella Freni, Barbara Bonney, Marilyn Horne, Susan Graham,
Paul Plishka, Frank Lopardo, Bruno Pola.
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus/James Levine
Directed by Franco Zeffirelli

Deutsche Grammophon DVD 073 4532 [126 minutes - 4:3 - October 1992]

Newly available internationally on DVD, this was a famously joyous and extravagant production at the Met, which Zeffirelli re-did for Covent Garden.

When first made available, it was described as Brian Large's finest opera video to date. It wears very well and it is interesting to see so many favourite singers at that stage in their careers.

Not too bothered about realism, Zeffirelli has his masqueraders mount an extraordinarily elaborate show at midnight, having begun its planning some time after 3 o'clock the same day whilst Falstaff was recovering from his immersion in the Thames with warm wine at the Garter Inn.

By the time Paul Plishka arrives by appointment at Herne's Oak, home-made costumes have been run up, Barbara Bonney is there on a white horse, and there is a huge cast of tormentors in waiting, including a crowd of young children who ought to have been abed long since...

This all works well, and for the fugal finale the camera backs into the auditorium and the rousing chorus becomes a paean to the great old Verdi himself. The traditional settings and costumes are meticulous; there can't ever have been a finer laundry basket on stage ! There are many telling touches to support Plishka's ripe Falstaff; I liked the humanity of the solicitous innkeeer consoling him with a sympathetic hand. Kenneth Chalmers' new appreciation of this vintage VHS classic sums it all up well, and you can find on American Amazon five-star appreciations of the original release.

A big welcome for this belated international release on DVD. Enjoy !

Peter Grahame Woolf

Other Falstaffs reviewed by Musical Pointers include:
http://www.musicalpointers.co.uk/reviews/cddvd08/VerdiFalstaffBrittenGill.html (Falstaff on a golf course !)

See also the Financial Times review of Glyndebourne's new Falstaff. - - Windsor Revisited – a tongue-in-cheek study of an idealised past - - a template for the society into which many of Glyndebourne’s audience were born - - with deference and snobbery - - a throwback to a world in which everything functions as long as everyone conforms - - the punishment meted out to Falstaff is as vicious and vindictive as a Gothic fairytale. - - I suspect Jones is telling Glyndebourne’s black-tie audience that nostalgia for an all-white hierarchical society à la Windsor Park is every bit as ridiculous as its penchant for Brideshead-style Marks and Spencer picnics.

N.B. Musical Pointers, and some other websites, have long been denied press tickets to Glyndebourne !