I’ve said for a while that I’ve had a DVD of Falstaff on loan from my father-in-law and this weekend I watched it. I’m not a huge fan of Romanticism, especially late Romanticism, so I was skeptical. I’ve not connected with Verdi operas in the past, either. I enjoy La Traviata the most but never clicked with Aida or Otello. The odds were not in Falstaff’s favor but that is nothing new for Falstaff, is it?
All my expectations aside, I rather enjoyed it. What I’ve objected to in other late Verdi is the continuous nature of the music. Verdi’s desire for a single unbroken texture was successful; it just wasn’t something that really connected with me. Now that I’ve been steeped in a bit more Sibelius than last time I approached Verdi, I think my brain handled Verdi’s stream of music much better this time. Maybe it was the fact that this was a comedy and the overall tone was more light-hearted. Maybe it was my change in expectations. I don’t know. Falstaff was much more digestible and enjoyable than I expected.
I really enjoyed the ensemble writing. Verdi had some great stuff with the “merry wives” and chorus and that opera finale fugue was off the hook! Also, the amount of “sound effects” in the orchestra and the way that Verdi composed out the actions of the characters was rather stunning. This is another score I plan on studying in more detail. Good times.
BTW, this was the La Scala production from 2001. I think Mutti was the conductor. I was amazed at how small La Scala is! The stage looked rather claustrophobic and that there were only about 100 people in the audience…