The three-act "commedia lirica" was Verdi's final work and only the second comedy out of his 26 major operas (his first was Il Giorno di Regno 53 years earlier). Following Macbeth and Otello, Falstaff was Verdi's third adaptation of a Shakespeare play.
Described as a "comic caper of disguises, cross-dressing, plots, and counterplots," the work is based upon The Merry Wives of Windsor. Having originally debuted in 1893 at La Scala, this staging by Leon Major marks the first time it has been seen at City Opera since 1999.
Singing the title role for the first time in New York is American bass-baritone Jan Opalach, who has appeared in varied roles at such companies as the Metropolitan Opera (World Premiere of The Voyage by Philip Glass), Washington Opera (Pandolfe in Cendrillon opposite Frederica von Stade), Cincinnati Opera, Atlanta Opera (Faninal in Der Rosenkavalier) and Opera Theater of St. Louis.
In a recent feature interview, Mr. Opalach spoke about the prospect of singing one of his most coveted roles: "You know how every actor aspires to do Hamlet? That's how I feel about Falstaff‹another Shakespearean role. Like the title role in Figaro and Leporello in Don Giovanni, it's one of those rare, fully realized, absolutely complete characters."
He describes the portly knight as a "guy [who] has racked up pretty much all the Seven Deadly Sins‹lust, gluttony, pride, envy, greed, sloth, et cetera‹some more obviously then others. But somehow, he's still so unbelievably charming!"
Opalach is joined by Pamela Armstrong as Alice Ford, Anna Skibinsky as Nannetta, Heather Johnson as Meg Page and Ursula Ferri as Mistress Quickly. John Tessier sings the role of Fenton, Joel Sorenson is Dr. Caius, Stephen Powell is Ford, Jeffrey Haili debuts as Bardolfo and Eric Jordan sings Pistola. George Manahan conducts.
The production runs through April 5 at the New York State Theater.
For more information or tickets visit www.nycopera.com
Read more from Jan Opalach in New York City Opera Spotlight: Jan Opalach.
* * * * * * * *
All photos by Carol Rosegg for New York City Opera.