“This is my Kingdom,” Falstaff bellows, rubbing his blown up belly. He is quite right; the stage is his kingdom this autumn as Verdi’s final and arguably greatest work,Falstaff,is performed at the Tobacco Factory Theatre in the company’s annual co-production with Opera Project.
Verdi’sFalstaffwas recently performed by the Royal Opera to mixed reviews; thus it is even more apt that under Richard Studer’s direction, Opera Project’s production follows a simpler and more traditional path which focuses on the storytelling and chaos at the very core of Verdi’s work.
The first two acts are fast-paced and bursting with an air of playfulness; however once the production reaches its climax of mischievousness, it falls flat and Falstaff’s moment of repentance becomes repetitive.
The unforgettable performances of the evening are from the Merry Wives of Windsor; as they unite in their impish revenge on Falstaff, the women’s dynamics only increase the comic genius of Verdi’s work and prove hell hath no fury like a woman scorned – especially when there are four of them. With a beautiful voice, which reaches high notes effortlessly, Joanna Foote must be applauded as Ford’s strikingly independent daughter Nanetta, as should Gaynor Keeble for her comic fizz as Mistress Quickly.
Simon Thorpe’s Falstaff radiates an infectious energy as the aging knight. From a downtrodden drunk to a peacock figure parading around the stage, Thorpe’s brilliant physicality and baritone voice capture the many mischievous faces of the wannabe Lothario. The other male performances are rather more mixed; Samuel Smith’s Bardolph and Mark Saberton’s Pistol make for a great comic double act, but as the men band together to plot against Falstaff, there is a definite lack of chemistry and intrigue.
An uncomplicated revival of one of Verdi’s only comic works, Opera Project’sFalstaffbursts with trickery and humiliation inevitable ensues. The company showcases its impressive voices and an ability to balance comic timing with the renowned, fearful pace of the opera.
Runs until 24 October 2015 | Image: Matthew Williams-Ellis