Verdi’s only successful comedy, Falstaff, opens at San Diego Opera on Saturday, February 18, 7 p.m. There will be four performances running through February 26.
Sir John Falstaff appears in three Shakespeare plays: Henry IV parts 1 and 2 and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Verdi’s adaptation pulls material from all three, but Merry Wives is the primary source.
Metropolitan — James Levine
Falstaff was the last opera Verdi composed. The second opera Verdi ever wrote was a comedy as well, but it only received one performance and Verdi temporarily gave up composing after its failure.
There appears to be something about comedies that inspires Verdi to stop composing. Falstaff was a success when first performed, but it quickly fell out of the repertoire.
Falstaff is a great show. It’s funny, and musically it is phenomenal. However, it’s not the Verdi we are used to. Preceding Falstaff in the Verdi canon are Otello and Aida. Both shows are massive in every sense of the word.
Falstaff is intimate. There are no grand scenes such as the opening storm sequence in Otello or the triumphal procession in Aida. The uninitiated might find Falstaff lacking as a result.
To the opera lover, Falstaff is the ultimate expression of Verdi’s genius.