Old, large and lecherous, Sir John Falstaff can’t resist the ladies. But they can resist him, and three of them plot to put an end to his advances once and for all.
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Giuseppe Verdi's final opera tells the tale of a portly knight with an irrepressible appetite for life, love and laughter. Falstaff crowned a career that spanned more than 50 years. Arrigo Boito – with whom Verdi also collaborated on Otello – created a libretto based on Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV Parts I and II. Verdi matched the libretto’s sprightliness with a score of rapid switches in mood and tempo. Falstaff had its premiere in Milan in 1893 when Verdi was 79 and was instantly hailed a masterpiece.
Robert Carsen's production is set in 1950s England and draws out the warmth, love of food and comedy at the heart of the opera. Falstaff moves from comic intrigue, as the Merry Wives outmanoeuvre the scheming men, to tender romance and infectious merriment. Musical highlights include Falstaff's monologue in Act I in which he mocks honour, Fenton's lovestruck sonnet in Act III, and the final – sublime – fugue in praise of laughter.