The spectacular opening of London's newly restored Royal Opera House brings a riot of color to Verdi's great Shakespearean masterpiece. Bryn Terfel as Sir John Falstaff and Barbara Frittoli as Alice Ford lead a star cast ... more »with the orchestra and chorus of the Royal Opera House under the direction of Bernard Haitink, in a spectacular new production by Graham Vick with vibrant medieval designs by Paul Brown.« less
"English people have a special affinity to this opera being based on a Shakespeare play (Merry Wives of Windsor). So it is small wonder it was picked for a special new production at the newly renovated Covent Garden. And it is certainly a very good production and probably the best one available in a visual format.
Specifically, the direction is highly innovative(dir. Graham Vick) and the sets by Paul Brown are very imaginative and brilliant with primary colors (there is something of a circus about it) which introduces the necessary lightheartedness and humour, so often missed in other productions. Just to mention a few examples: the first act scene 1. takes place on a huge red bed tilted towards the audience and there are several trapdoors opening in and out.(The bed is like a huge trampoline upon which people bounce up and down, while Falstaff is sitting or lieing on it, drinking wine -absolutely hilarious.) The second act scene 2. is also very colourful with a big yellow baldachine over the bed and the third act scene one with several hunting trophies in a row used as a hiding places and taking a life of their own at a most unexpected moment, is truly inspired humour.The elements of surprise here are remarkable.
Musically, this is Bryn Terfel's finest hour in the role of Falstaff. His voice and characterisation are beyond comparison. Barbara Frittoli's youthful soprano voice , terrific acting and good looks as Alice Ford, are worthy foil to Terfel. Roberto Frontali as Mr. Ford is a strong baritone; his duet and famous aria in the 2nd act comes off well. The other, supporting, roles are no less creditable.Manca di Nissa as Mrs Quickly should probably require a special mention.
Haitink is definitely up to the task in this contrapunctal score (again I am referring to the Meistersinger which is no less contrapunctal). Verdi must have learned something from Wagner, but his synthesis has an Italian quality and this points to his genius.
Haitink does well with the 'a capella' ensembles in the first act and in the final fugato finale. These are a real tests for a good conductor.
This performance should be very satisfying to most viewers. There are of course stick- in- the mud pedants, who cannot relate to anything but the traditional, but I am sure there will be many listeners who would welcome a change. Most enjoyable."
When you're in the right mood...
Mr. Matthew J. Williams | Sydney, NSW Australia | 06/25/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Is the other reviewer serious about the "R" rating in the USA? In Australia this film has been rated PG - which means children can watch it but it is recommended that parents guide them. That's the same rating as "Home Alone" and other such innocuous Hollywood comedies. Weird.Anyway, this production certainly is colorful. In the right mood I find it a riot. In the wrong mood I find it unsubtle and overdone, even gauche.But Terfel's Falstaff is tremendous in spite of absurdly unrealistic stomach padding. Frittoli's Alice is beautifully sung and acted, and Mistress Quickly's motif was still impressed on my mind the day after watching it, such is Bernadette Manca di Nissa's fruity tone.Fenton (Kenneth Tarver) and Nannetta (Desiree Rancatore) make an enchanting pair physically and vocally, flirting with the kind of extrovert style encouraged by the production.I've never heard anything badly done by Haitink - he is a reliably excellent conductor and this is no exception. The Covent Garden orchestra articulate the shifting motifs of Verdi's score splendidly.In the right mood, a very enjoyable night at the opera."
maria | Seattle, WA USA | 12/24/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the only version of Falstaff I've ever seen or heard and I think it's pretty [darn] good! The very bright sets and costumes take a little bit of time getting used to, but once you do, they are very effective and fun.
I think the cast is excellent! Bryn Terfel obviously loves the role and is determined to be a lovable rogue. His singing is gorgeous, as usual. Barbara Frittoli as Alice Ford is not my first choice, but I like her. All the other cast members are wonderful as well. My personal favourite is the man who played Fenton. I can't remember his name and ...isn't printing the cast list, but he was a very good actor with a beautiful lyric voice. It's also nice to finally see a black tenor on the opera stage (who's not singing Otello)."
Verdi without fear
Z. Fu | New York, NY | 12/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Falstaff is G. Verdi's hardest nut to crack. The main reason is a noticeable lack of long flowing melodies and arias commonly present in Italian opera tradition. Another is that, more than any other operas, the theater is as essential as the music.
This BBC presentation is a true marvel. It is a feast for the eyes. The young cast can sing and act. The stage direction is flawless, capturing the energy and humor of the piece. If you are curious but hesitant about Falstaff, give this DVD a try."
Well, a lot of the Credits should go to Bernard Haitink
BLee | HK | 07/25/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The sound and picture of this DVD is definitive in terms of modern technology. The overall approach is also very modern so far as costumes and settings are concerned: the colours of both are so simple and yet so exceptionally rich. It's as if one is reading a comic or a cartoon with human faces. Such treatment might well be justified for a comic opera of this nature and by doing so, they may well be able to attract young comers to the operas, or they may be bored of the realistic approach...As pointed out by most viewers, Terfel's acting and singing were wonderful and he was well supported by his partners, not just Barbara Frittoli but almost all other singers and above all, a wonderful orchestra. Viewers with a sharp ear for orchestral support might mistake this to be Vienna Philharmonic, for it sounds as good as Vienna Philharmonic! The orchestra is so full of life and colours giving the sort of sopport to singers that could even rival Gerald Moore on the piano. It's most rare eversince Furtwangler. Menuhin once conducted the Russian State Orchestra, making the orchestra sound so warm and full of colours that you wouldn't believe your ears. Bernard Haitink is such another magical conductor which is by and large extinct now!"