Broadcast

Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Falstaff 

Radio Broadcast and Live in HD Transmission of Saturday, December 14, 12:55 P.M. (HD), 1 P.M. (Radio)

Broadcast Falstaff hdl 1213
A scene from the Met's new production of Falstaff, designed by Paul Steinberg (sets), Brigitte Reiffenstuel (costumes) and Robert Carsen and Peter Van Praet (lighting)
© Royal Opera House/Catherine Ashmore 2013
 
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from its founding sponsor, The Neubauer Family Foundation. 
Bloomberg is the global corporate sponsor of The Met: Live in HD.
The HD Broadcasts are supported by Toll Brothers, America's luxury home builder®.
 
The 2013–14 Metropolitan Opera broadcast season is sponsored by 
Toll Brothers, America's luxury home builder®, with generous long-term support from 
The Annenberg Foundation, The Neubauer Family Foundation,
the Vincent A. Stabile Endowment for Broadcast Media,
and through contributions from listeners worldwide.
 
Falstaff  
 
Music by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Arrigo Boito, after William Shakespeare's plays The Merry Wives of Windsor and King Henry IV 
THE CAST     (in order of vocal appearance)
Dr. Caius     tenor, CARLO BOSI
Sir John Falstaff     baritone, AMBROGIO
     MAESTRI
Bardolfo     tenor, KEITH JAMESON
Pistola     bass, CHRISTIAN VAN HORN
Meg Page     mezzo, JENNIFER JOHNSON
     CANO
Alice Ford     soprano, ANGELA MEADE
Mistress Quickly     mezzo, STEPHANIE
     BLYTHE
Nannetta     soprano, LISETTE OROPESA
Fenton     tenor, PAOLO FANALE
Ford     baritone, FRANCO VASSALLO

Conducted by JAMES LEVINE

The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus

Production: Robert Carsen
Set designer: Paul Steinberg
Costume designer: Brigitte Reiffenstuel
Lighting designers: Robert Carsen, 
     Peter Van Praet
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Jane Klaviter,
     John Keenan, Carrie-Ann Matheson,
     Jonathan Kelly, Bryan Wagorn
Assistant stage directors: Daniel Dooner, 
     Gina Lapinski, Louisa Muller
Italian coach: Hemdi Kfir
Prompter: Jane Klaviter

Falstaff is a coproduction of the Metropolitan 
     Opera; Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; 
     Teatro alla Scala, Milan; the Canadian 
     Opera Company, Toronto; and 
     De Nederlandse Opera, Amsterdam. 

Production a gift of the Betsy and Ed Cohen/
     Areté Foundation Fund for New 
     Productions and Revivals, and 
     Harry and Misook Doolittle
Additional funding from The Gilbert S. Kahn 
     & John J. Noffo Kahn Foundation,
     and Mr. and Mrs. William R. Miller

THE SCENES  Timings (ET)
ACT I 1:00–
     Sc. 1Garter Inn  
     Sc. 2The Same 
ACT II –2:34
     Sc. 1Garter Inn 
     Sc. 2Ford's house 
ACT III 3:12–4:08
     Sc. 1Outside the Inn 
     Sc. 2Windsor Great Park 

Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel, 
     William Berger
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
     Elena Park

Directed for Live Cinema by Gary Halvorson
HD host: Renée Fleming

For more information on the broadcasts, 
     please visit www.operainfo.org.

Send quiz questions to: 
     Metropolitan Opera Quiz
     Metropolitan Opera
     30 Lincoln Center
     New York, NY 10023
     or e-mail metquiz@metopera.org.

This performance is also being broadcast live 
     on Metropolitan Opera Radio on SiriusXM
     channel 74.
This performance will be transmitted live, in high definition and surround sound, 
into selected movie theaters, and will be shared with students in more than 130 U.S. schools
as part of the Met's HD Live in Schools program. 
For information on tickets, visit www.metopera.org/hdlive

THE STORY   

ACT I. Sir John Falstaff, the portly rascal of Windsor, sits in the Garter Inn with his "bad companions" Bardolfo and Pistola. When Dr. Caius enters to accuse the three of abusing his home and robbing him, Falstaff dismisses the charges with mock solemnity. He then upbraids his friends for being unable to pay the bill. Seeking to better his fortunes, Falstaff plans to woo two wealthy matrons, Alice Ford and Meg Page. He produces love letters to both, but his henchmen decide their ethics forbid them to deliver the missives. Falstaff gives the notes to a page boy and lectures his cronies on honor, declaring it is nothing but a word, as he chases them from the inn.

In her garden, Alice and her daughter Nannetta, gossiping with Meg and Mistress Quickly, soon discover that Falstaff has sent identical letters. Outraged, they resolve to punish him, then withdraw as Ford arrives with Caius, Fenton, Bardolfo and Pistola, all warning him about Falstaff's designs. Briefly alone, Nannetta and Fenton steal kisses until the women return, plotting to send Quickly to Falstaff to arrange a rendezvous with Alice. Next, Nannetta and Fenton are interrupted by Ford, who also plans to visit Falstaff. As the women reappear, all pledge to take the fat knight down a peg or two.

ACT II. At the inn, Falstaff accepts Bardolfo and Pistola's feigned penitence for their mutiny. Soon Quickly curtseys in to assure Falstaff that both Alice and Meg return his ardor. Arranging a meeting with Alice, Falstaff rewards Quickly with a pittance and then, alone, preens himself. The next visitor is Ford, disguised as "Master Brook" and proclaiming an unrequited passion for Alice. Employed to break down the lady's virtue, Falstaff boasts that he has already set up a tryst and steps out to array himself. Ford, badly shaken, vows to avenge his honor. Regaining his composure when Falstaff returns, he leaves arm in arm with the fat knight.

In Ford's house, Quickly reports to Alice and Meg on her visit with the knight. Nannetta does not share in the fun: her father has promised her to Caius. The women reassure her, then hide, leaving Alice strumming a lute as her fat suitor arrives. Recalling his salad days as a slender page, he is cut short when Quickly announces Meg's imminent approach. Falstaff leaps behind a screen, and Meg sails in to report that Ford is on his way home in a fury. Quickly confirms this, and while Ford and his men search the house, Falstaff takes refuge in a basket of dirty linen. Slipping behind the screen, Nannetta and Fenton attract attention with the sound of their kissing. While Meg and Quickly muffle Falstaff's cries for air, Ford sneaks up on the screen, knocks it over and pauses briefly to berate the lovers as the chase continues upstairs. Alice orders servants to heave the basket into the Thames, then leads her husband to the window to see Falstaff dumped into the muddy river.

ACT III. At sunset outside the inn, Falstaff bemoans his misadventure while downing a mug of warm wine. His reflections are halted by Quickly, who insists that Alice still loves him and proves it with a note appointing a midnight rendezvous in Windsor Park. Alice, Ford, Meg, Caius and Fenton sneak in as Falstaff enters the inn with Quickly, who tells him the gory tale of the Black Huntsman's ghost that haunts Windsor Park at night. Alice and the others plot to frighten Falstaff by dressing up as wood sprites.

In moonlit Windsor Forest, Fenton sings of love and receives a monk's costume for the masquerade; Nannetta is queen of the fairies, Meg a nymph, Quickly a witch. Everyone withdraws as Falstaff lumbers in, dressed as a huntsman and wearing antlers. No sooner has he greeted Alice than Meg warns of approaching demons. As the knight cowers, Nannetta calls the forest creatures to their revels. They torment Falstaff with pinches until he begs for mercy. When the conspirators unmask, Sir John takes it like a sport. Ford betroths Caius to the queen of the fairies — actually Bardolfo in Nannetta's costume — and unwittingly blesses Nannetta and Fenton. Ford has been duped, but he too can forgive, and Falstaff leads the company in declaring the world is but a jest.

Broadcast Falstaff hdl 2 1213
A scene from the Met's new production of Falstaff, designed by Paul Steinberg (sets), Brigitte Reiffenstuel (costumes) and Robert Carsen and Peter Van Praet (lighting)
© Royal Opera House/Catherine Ashmore 2013

THE BACKGROUND  

Six years after Otello, Verdi surprised the world with Falstaff, his jovial valedictory to opera. The surprise lay not in his ability to compose at an advanced age but in his deftness at setting a comic subject. Since the failure of the lighthearted Un Giorno di Regno in 1840, Verdi had set only tragic stories. Knowing the difficulty of writing a good comedy, he waited for the right libretto. His love for Shakespeare (whom Verdi called "the greatest searcher of the human heart"), together with the genius of librettist Arrigo Boito, attracted him to Shakespeare's fat rascal.

The subject won a great following in the Romantic era: Antonio Salieri, Giovanni Pacini, Michael Balfe, Otto Nicolai, Adolphe Adam and Ambroise Thomas all wrote Falstaff operas; Thomas even included Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I in his cast. Besides its mellowness and wit, Verdi's Falstaff is distinguished by a musical craftsmanship of such mercurial subtlety as to discourage wide popularity. 

The premiere of Falstaff at La Scala, on February 9, 1893, featured Victor Maurel (also the first Iago) in the title role. The U.S. premiere fell to the Metropolitan Opera on February 4, 1895, with Maurel and Emma Eames as Alice.  

The company's next new Falstaff production was mounted in 1909, with Arturo Toscanini pacing Antonio Scotti as Sir John, Emmy Destinn as Alice and Frances Alda as Nannetta in the premiere, a tour performance in Philadelphia. Scotti and Alda were again on hand as Falstaff and Nannetta when the Met mounted another new production of the opera, in 1925, along with Beniamino Gigli as Fenton and Lucrezia Bori as Alice. The show was stolen by a young baritone from California, Lawrence Tibbett, who created a career-making sensation with Ford's aria in Act II. 

The Met did not mount another new production of the opera until 1964, when Franco Zeffirelli made his Met debut as both designer and director with a staging that was to remain in service through the 2005–06 season. A revival of the Zeffirelli Falstaff, conducted by James Levine and starring Paul Plishka, Mirella Freni and Marilyn Horne, was telecast on Live from the Met in 1992 and is available for streaming at Met Opera on Demand.

Robert Carsen's staging of Falstaff will be introduced to Met audiences on December 6, 2013, with Levine conducting. Ambrogio Maestri heads the cast as Sir John, joined by Stephanie Blythe (Mistress Quickly), Angela Meade (Alice), Jennifer Johnson Cano (Meg Page), Lisette Oropesa (Nannetta), Franco Vassallo (Ford) and Paolo Fanale (Fenton). The production will appear as part of The Met: Live in HD series on December 14.

Broadcast Falstaff lg 1213
Ambrogio Maestri as Falstaff in Robert Carsen's staging,
which arrives at the Met on December 6

© Royal Opera House/Catherine Ashmore 2013

WHAT TO READ AND HEAR  

Mary Jane Phillips-Matz's imposing biography of Verdi (Oxford) remains valuable for its scrupulous detail, but John Roselli's colorful The Life of Verdi (Cambridge) is also worthwhile and informative. Charles Osborne's comprehensive, reader-friendly The Complete Operas of Verdi (DaCapo paperback) is a good guide to the composer's stage works, as is The Cambridge Companion to Verdi (Cambridge).

Most of the twentieth century's leading opera conductors are represented in the Falstaff catalogue.  Arturo Toscanini's 1950 radio performance with the NBC Symphony (RCA) remains one of the greatest recordings of any Verdi opera. Karajan's 1956 Falstaff with Tito Gobbi and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf is also deeply satisfying, as is Vittorio Gui's 1960 Glyndebourne performance with Geraint Evans as Falstaff (Glyndebourne). Carlo Maria Giulini leads a superb Falstaff with Fernando Corena, recorded live with Glyndebourne forces at Edinburgh in 1955; equally illuminating are the Falstaffs led by Leonard Bernstein (1966, Columbia), Riccardo Muti (1993, Sony) and Claudio Abbado (2001, DG).  

On DVD, Ambrogio Maestri is the Falstaff in Daniele Gatti's Zurich Opera performance (C Major).  James Levine leads a 1992 telecast of the Met's Franco Zeffirelli staging with Paul Plishka, Mirella Freni and Marilyn Horne (DG); Bryn Terfel cavorts through Windsor in a 1999 Covent Garden Falstaff, conducted by Bernard Haitink (Kultur). Glyndebourne's vivid 2009 Falstaff, paced by Vladimir Jurowski and set by director Richard Jones in World-War-II-era Britain, stars Christopher Purves as Sir John (Opus Arte). spacer 

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Current Issue: September 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 3