Bernstein's Falstaff is one of the best from the point of view of conducting, with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau a thoughtful fat knight, and the supporting cast containing some worthwhile stand-outs.
Verdi's brilliant final masterpiece Falstaff, in its first new Met production in 50 years – and conducted by Met Music Director James Levine in his first new production since his return to his podium at the Met. When it comes to theatrical flair, captivating costumes, stage antics and imagination, there are not many shows on Broadway to rival the Met s new Falstaff. “Ambrogio Maestri is made for the title role, with the apt physique, nimble acting and superb vocal presence that make him the leading Falstaff of the day. There is no weak link in a finely balanced, comically-attuned cast (the women are especially impressive) and Levine’s conducting is pitch-perfect. The show fizzles from start to finish and is tremendous fun” (Classical Music).
When Carlo Maria Giulini returned to conducting public performances of opera after an absence of fourteen years, he chose for the occasion one of the enduring comic masterpieces - Verdi's Falstaff. The composer was almost eighty when he broke the six-year silence following the premiere of Otello, and startled the musical world by revealing his complete mastery of comic invention. Renato Bruson, the renowned interpreter of Verdi and one of the leading lyric baritones of the day, sings the title role.
This time-honoured production of Verdi's final opera, one that has seen all the greatest Falstaffs of the last four decades hold court at its convincingly shabby Garter Inn and upset the decent folk of its lovingly recreated Tudor Windsor, marked the first appearance at the Met of producer and designer Franco Zeffirelli in March 1964. The Anglophile Zeffirelli had by then made his Shakespearean reputation with a revelatory Romeo and Juliet in London - his films of this play and of The Taming of the Shrew were shortly to follow - as well as with a similar production of Falstaff at Covent Garden, and the attention to visual and psychological detail displayed in his Met Falstaff won it high praise: “a milestone in the history of operatic production in this city" was the judgement of the New York Herald Tribune.
The inspirational Vladimir Jurowski conducts Verdi’s last opera, his only true comic opera. An international cast is led by Christopher Purves in the larger-than-life role of the corpulent Falstaff, whose profligacy both outrages and inspires the citizens of Windsor. Richard Jones’s production brings out the humour, bitterness and anger – mixed with tenderness and wisdom – embodied in the Shakespeare plays on which the libretto is based.
Falstaff was the culmination of Verdi’s long career as an opera composer. He had talked of retirement after the premiere of Un Ballo in Maschera in 1858 and believed that he had laid down his compositional pen after Aida in 1871. But nearly a decade later, persuaded by his publisher, he embarked on a rewriting of Simon Boccanegra of 1857. This involved his working with Arrigo Boito, an accomplished librettist and also a composer; it was an association Verdi relished. The revised Boccanegra, unlike the 1857 original, was a success at La Scala in 1881 and showed that even at the age of 68 Verdi’s inner genius was alive and well. Ricordi and Boito subtly pointed Verdi towards Shakespeare’s Othello. Verdi loved and revered Shakespeare above any other poet. Slowly, via constant personal contact and communication, Boito produced a libretto that sparked Verdi; even more slowly Otello was written. It is a work of significant orchestral complexity that marked major compositional developments, even compared to the revised Boccanegra and the lyrical greatness within Aida and Don Carlos, its immediate predecessors. It was premiered, again at La Scala, six years after the revised Boccanegra… – Robert J Farr, MusicWeb International
Giuseppe Verdi was born in the little town of Roncole in the vicinity of Parma and spent the longest period of his life in seclusion close to Parma. He died in Milan in 1901. Today, the region of Parma honours its one-time fellow citizen with the international Verdi Festival organized by the Teatro Regio di Parma. Every year, Verdi’s masterworks are performed in the historical theatres of Parma and neighbouring Busseto over 28 days in the autumn…
This is a live 1982 production of Verdi's last opera, at the Salzburg festival with Herbert von Karajan conducting the Wiener Philharmoniker. The singers are Giuseppe Tadei (Sir John Falstaff), Raina Kabaivanska (Alice Ford), Rolando Panerai (Ford), Francisco Araiza (Fenton) and Christa Ludwig (Quickly).
Musically, the performance is excellent and the stage is finely designed, specially the forest in the third act. Video quality is high and sound quality is good. I highly recommend this recording of Verdi's probably best opera.