This revival of FALSTAFF is coming towards the end of its current run. I
apologise if others have posted their impressions on it.
The Graham Vick productio opened the Royal Opera House in its new incarnation
several years back. It is basically a charmless affair hampered by primary
coloured cartoon sets and a truly ugly final act not only lacking in magic
but in any type of atmosphere.
Musically things were much much better - I would go as far as to say that -
with one exception - the singing was as fine as i have ever heard in this
For a start there was at last a conductor in the pit who evidently had plenty
of rehearsal time and knew what he wanted from the piece. The orchestra
played rapturously and everything fizzed along with a lightness and clarity
that has recently in this house eluded such hacks as the ubiquitous Benini
(unfortunately announced for Luisa Miller in April) Pido and Campanella.
Bryn Terfel is both vocally and physically ideal in the title role, full of
deft and subtle touches and, for all the grossness of his appearance, a
gentle and ultimately harmless figure surely not deserving of the calculated
mayhem - at least, as directed by Vick- visited on him by these ladies. You
would have thought it had been a case of date rape in Vick's heavy handed
overemphasis but Terfel's gentle and humane knight only hoped against hope
that he might get lucky in the sack one more time. I found the
characterisation wonderfully humane. Vocally, he sounded , naturally enough,
younger than most in the role but he paints the words beautifully although
the top now sounds effortful and the voice smaller than i remember. Any past
thoughts of the Dutchman and Wotan must surely be fanciful but i wonder if he
ever has lessons or indeed even vocalises before a performance.
Anthony Michaels-Moore nutty brown baritone is ideal in weight for this role
after a series of overparted assumptions in this house (Scarpia, Attila) and
his descent into fury and jealousy was incredibly convincing. It is always a
very very thin line between dishing the dirt and then not being able to take
it and for once Ford was not a one dimensional assumption. Mario Luperi was
luxury casting as Pistol. The Fenton, Massimo Giordani somewhat redeemed
himself in Act 4 but his coarse and lumpy singing had no place on this stage
within a cast of this standard. I believe Juan Diego Flores was originally
announced for this role.
Of the ladies the delicious Soile Isokowski as Alice sang with exquisite
silvery tone, a wonderful vocal assumption. She is an enchanting singer. By
contrast Rebecca Evans as Nanetta sounded matronly, and despite her soubrette
physical appearance may be ready for a step up from such roles. I had not
heard Stephanie Blythe (Quickly) before but agree with her admirers that this
is a huge vocal talent - the colour and clarion ring of her sound is truly
extraordinary although the voice was unable to articulate any of the fast
passages Verdi sets for her. Marie McLaughlin was, at least on paper, luxury
casting as Meg Page but I am curious as to her extraordinary vocal
deterioration in the past 3-4 years given both her age and the big
international career she once enjoyed.