Set in 1946 this production of Falstaff manages to bring the story a renewed freshness which kept the audience captivated throughout.
The story, first performed at La Scala, Milan in 1893, has echoes of modern day Britain. Focusing on the austere post-war years opera’s antagonist Sir John Falstaff is a comedy character worthy of any modern sit com. At times likable, at others a figure of ridicule and contempt.
The curtain rises on the first act with the booze soaked Falstaff defending his friends form the accusations of theft as they lounge in the Garter Inn. Of course they are guilty but this leads to the orotund Falstaff hatching a skewered plot to woo two woman to gain access to their husband’s cash.
From here the farce unravels as the Operas (anti) hero, played with skilled slap-stick timing by Laurent Naouri, sends two identical letters to the Windsor wives Alice Ford (Ailyn Pérez ) and Meg Page (Lucia Cirillo).
The wives soon discover his dastardly deed and hatch a plot to uncover Falstaff’s ruse with the help of the formidably, uniformed Mistress Quickly (Susanne Resmark) and Alice’s daughter Nanette (Elena Tsallagova).
Needless to say Falstaff’s sense of old-world entitlement and shameless sexism quickly evaporates as he is firstly humiliated in Act 11/Scene 2 before the town’s folk join forces in a masquerade in an attempt to get Falstaff to repent his ways in Scene 2.
Throughout the performance the stage designs by Ultz bring both a realism and technicolour charm to the libretto. The scenery changes a perfect compliment to the drama unfolding between the performers.
These beautiful sets culminate in the crashing finale of Scene 2 where the stage is filled with masked performers for what was a highlight of the show. One particular song, performed solo on a tree by Antonio Poli as Fenton, a particular highlight.
From the animatronic cat to the well-drilled rowing crew, which darted across the stage, and girl guides the sense of place is anchored in the time frame.
Credit also goes to Mark Elder, whose account of the score was wonderfully conducted the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. The score was performed on period instruments.
For more information on festival go to glyndebourne.com/season/festival-2013