In the finale, with the entire company singing, the grand message of Falstaff can be understood: Everything in the world is a jest. Falstaff, the portly monarch, has been duped repeatedly in his attempts to woo two rich, married matrons and gain their fortunes. That’s the outcome of writing identical love letters to two friends who also are well connected to those who despise him. In the final scene, Falstaff is able to laugh at himself easily—whereas in his previous follies, the old man needed mulled wine to console himself.
The character of Falstaff first appeared in Shakespeare’s Henry IV and eventually was showcased in The Merry Wives of Windsor. It is no easy task to turn Shakespeare into an opera; few have done it well, let alone with such success as the great 19th century Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. He turned three of the Bard’s classics into works still in the classic repertoire: Otello, Macbeth and Falstaff. The latter, a three-act comedy, written when Verdi was 80 years old, is clear and crisp. The libretto was written by Arrigo Boito.
Anchoring the cast for what Utah Opera calls Verdi’s “most brilliant expression,” Steven Condy plays the saucy Falstaff with Cynthia Clayton as trickster Alice Ford (pictured). Director Christopher Mattaliano will attempt to skillfully balance the opera’s sometimes widely varying tones—the first two scenes alone range from brash and male-dominated to playful and intriguing—that are, at times, as different as romance and greed.