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Falstaff (opera)

From Academic Kids

Falstaff is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi, adapted by Arrigo Boito from Shakespeare's play The Merry Wives of Windsor. It was Verdi's last opera, written in the composer's eighth decade, and only the second of his twenty-six operas to be a comedy. It was also the third of Verdi's operas to be based on a Shakespearean play, and like his first adaptation of the English playwright, Macbeth, it concludes with a fugue, the famous "Tutto nel mondo burla" ("All the world's a joke").

The first performance took place on February 9, 1893 at La Scala in Milan, Italy to great success. While not as immensely popular as the works that immediately preceded it, Aida and Otello, Falstaff has long been a critical favorite for its refinement and melodic invention.

Plot

ACT I. A room at the Garter Inn. Falstaff is surrounded by his friends Bardolph, Pistol and the innkeeper, when Dr. Caius arrives and accuses him of robbery, but the excited doctor is soon ejected. Falstaff hands letters to his servants for delivery to Mistress Ford and to Mistress Page. The letters, which purport of Falstaff's love for the respectable women, are intended to seduce them. Bardolph and Pistol refuse, however, claiming that 'honor' prevents them from obeying his orders. Sending the letters by a page instead, Falstaff confronts his servants ('L'onore! Ladri!') and chases them out of his sight.

Change of scene: Ford's garden. Alice and Meg have received the Falstaff's letters, both of identical contents. They exchange them, and in conjunction with Mistress Quickly, resolve to punish the knight. The three are also none too pleased with Master Ford, who is intending to give his daughter Nanetta in marriage to Dr. Caius. This, they resolve, will not happen. Meanwhile, Ford has been apprised of the letters by Bardolph and Pistol. All three are athirst for vengeance. A brief love duet between Fenton and Nanetta follows; the women return home and, through Mistress Quickly, invite Falstaff to an assignation. The men also arrive upon the scene, and Bardolph and Pistol are persuaded to introduce Ford to Falstaff under an assumed name.

ACT II. Same room as in the first scene of Act I. Bardolph and Pistol, begging for forgiveness for past transgressions, announce to their master the arrival of Dame Quickly, who delivers the invitation. Ford is now introduced as Signor Fontana, who offers money to the fat knight to intercede for him with Mistress Ford. Falstaff agrees with pleasure, and while he attires himself in splendid array in his chamber, Ford is consumed with jealousy ('E' sogno o realt?').

Change of scene: A room in Ford's house. As Mistress Quickly announces the coming of Falstaff, Mistress Ford has a large clothes basket placed in readiness. Falstaff's attempts to seduce the lady are cut short as Mistress Quickly reports the arrival of Mistress Page, and the knight is compelled to conceal himself behind a screen. When the angry Ford with his friends appear to capture Falstaff, the latter hides in the basket. In the meanwhile, a love scene between Fenton and Nanetta takes place behind the screen, and the men returning, hear the sound of a kiss; they think to entrap Falstaff, but find Fenton, who is ordered by Ford to leave. When the men again proceed with the search, the women order the wash basket to be thrown into the ditch, where Falstaff is compelled to endure the jeers of the crowd.

ACT III. Before the inn. Falstaff, in a gloomy mood, curses the sorry state of the world. Some mulled wine, however, soon improves his mood. The fat knight again receives an invitation through Dame Quickly, which is overheard by the men. After Falstaff, dubious at first, has promised to go to Herne's Oak, the place of meeting, he enters the house with Dame Quickly, and the men concoct a plan for his punishment. Dr. Caius is promised the hand of Nanetta, and is told of her disguise. The plot is overheard by Dame Quickly.

Change of scene: At Herne's Oak in Windsor Park. A moonlight midnight. The women disguise Fenton as a monk, and arrange that he shall spoil the plans of Dr. Caius. Falstaff's love scene with Mistress Ford is interrupted by the announcement that the Wild Huntsman is approaching, and the men disguised as elves and fairies thrash Falstaff soundly. When their vengeance is satisfied, Dr. Caius finds that he has captured Bardolph instead of Nanetta in the garb of a fairy queen, but Fenton and Nanetta, with the consent of Ford, are joined in wedlock. Falstaff, pleased to find himself not the only dupe, proclaims that the whole world is a joke (Tutto nel mondo burla).


References

Plot summary adapted from The Opera Goer's Complete Guide by Leo Melitz, 1921 version.

External links

da:Falstaff es:Falstaff sr:Фалстаф (опера)

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