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Antony Craig
Gramophone, September 2012

The Specialist Guide To…Fantastic, flamboyant Falstaffs: #4

VERDI, G.: Falstaff (Glyndebourne, 2009) (NTSC) OA1021D
VERDI, G.: Falstaff (Glyndebourne, 2009) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7053D

What an inspired choice it was to cast one-time rocker christopher Purves…as Glyndebourne’s most recent…Falstaff. His unusually sympathetic, deliciously acted and splendidly sung performance can be enjoyed on Blu-ray in a typically thoughtful production, set during the Second world war, by Richard Jones. with Vladimir Jurowski, Glyndebourne’s music director, on fire, this is a musical and visual treat. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone



Tim Pfaff
Bay Area Reporter, December 2010

Falstaff, Verdi’s crowning masterpiece, updated rather than backdated, sparkled with a similar brilliance and sense of life-affirming perfection in a live performance from Glyndebourne (Opus Arte DVD) conducted by Vladimir Jurowski. Richard Jones’ mind-bogglingly ingenious production proved a deft match for Verdi’s supremely nimble score, and a near-ideal ensemble cast whirled around the tirelessly resourceful singing-acting of Christopher Purves as Sir John.



Margarida Mota-Bull
MusicWeb International, November 2010

Recording of the Month

Falstaff was Verdi’s last opera and is centred on one of his favourite Shakespearean characters. The composer worked on it for approximately three and a half years, reworking every scene multiple times, refining the music and improving on the wit. He continued this process of revision even whilst the score was being printed, through rehearsals and apparently, even during the first run of performances. The result was a masterful comedy but its greatness is due not only to Verdi’s musical genius but also and to my mind, mostly to Arrigo Boito’s magnificent libretto. Boito based the story on Shakespeare’s comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor and incorporated material from Shakespeare’s historic play Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2. He condenses the plot of The Merry Wives of Windsor and cleverly draws on Henry IV to create a larger than life Falstaff that sustains the opera throughout. The beauty of Shakespeare’s language is preserved in the Italian translation, as Boito had the brilliant idea of writing the verse in an antique manner, directly extracting words from Boccaccio and other satirical authors from the Italian Renaissance period. The result was, according to many experts, the best and most intelligent operatic adaptation of works by Shakespeare; a statement with which I entirely agree.

It is generally known that Verdi himself supervised numerous rehearsals of Falstaff during January and early February 1893, just before the work was premiered at La Scala, in Milan, on 9 February 1893. The composer insisted on authenticity and a natural style of acting to strengthen the character depiction, which was what Verdi was interested in. He wanted characters with substance and not buffoons; therefore always insisted that his Falstaff was not an “opera buffa” and actually called it a “commedia lirica”. In his quest to preserve Shakespeare’s England and to make every detail of the opera authentic, Verdi sent the production designer of that first performance, to London and Windsor to ensure that costumes and settings were as close to the real thing as possible. Bearing this in mind, I have generally come to expect a realistic approach with great attention to period detail. So, as I read the booklet notes and looked at the photographs of the production, prior to watching the DVD, I could not help but commenting to myself: “Falstaff set in post-war Britain? Hmmmm! I don’t think so!” This was my initial reaction and I must admit that I felt sceptical about the whole concept.

The director of this Glyndebourne production is the famous (or infamous, depending on one’s perspective) Richard Jones. I have not seen his Macbeth, also at Glyndebourne, but he reportedly shocked the audience in the first night by presenting Macbeth as a crude, rough army-type in tartan. If perhaps Jones’s Macbeth was meant to shock, this production of Falstaff was surely intended to please. He chose the post-war period, which is a time that Britons tend to remember with nostalgia, a certain feeling of euphoria and pride, as the country had just been victorious in World War II. It was a time of optimism, where the prospect of a normal life was again possible and people were beginning to recover from the horrors of war and the Nazi monster had been defeated. It was a period where light had dispersed darkness and Good triumphed over Evil. Things were simple and life could be figured out in almost black and white without any grey, shadowy areas. Therefore, setting this Falstaff production in this particular period is immediately appealing to a British audience, particularly if they come from that part of the population that grew up or were young adults during those years; they’re usually well represented at Glyndebourne.

Having said all that, I am happy to write that the production actually works although there were some minor aspects that I thought a little annoying, as for example, the exaggerated number of cabbages everywhere; however, this becomes irrelevant soon enough. Besides the fact that the period is appealing to most British audiences and the production is truly inventive and attractive, its success and effectiveness is mainly due to two things: The charming, clever set and costume design by Ultz and Christopher Purves’s admirable performance in the title role. Purves is genuinely funny and fits the part to perfection; however he does not exaggerate his portrayal to give us a caricature or make Falstaff ridiculous; instead he depicts the corpulent knight with witty sobriety. His singing is outstanding and his body expression, comic timing and dramatic skills are excellent. These contribute to a full embodiment of the character, making the audience believe that they are watching a real Falstaff and not an artist playing him.

The cast is uniformly fine and effectively support Purves’s Falstaff. I particularly enjoyed Adriana Kucerová’s Nannetta, who sings the part with a suitably cheeky, youthful tone and who has a very pleasant stage presence. The “merry wives” Alice and Meg, as well as the Mistress Quickly, are brilliantly sung and played by Dina Kuznetsova, Jennifer Holloway and Marie-Nicole Lemieux; especially Lemieux who gives us an extremely effective, very witty Mistress Quickly. Among the men, apart from the outstanding Purves, there are solid performances from Tassis Christoyannis who makes a great Ford, and from Peter Hoare as Dr Caius. Pistol, as portrayed by Paolo Battaglia, is very effective and the same can be said of Alasdair Elliott as Bardolph. Fenton is here sung by a little known, young Turkish tenor, Bülent Bezdüz who possesses a fresh, youthful voice that suits the part well, although his understated stage presence makes one wonder if this Nannetta would actually fall for him.

The Glyndebourne Chorus give an admirable performance and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, under the charismatic baton of Vladimir Jurowski delivers the score with style. The DVD is complemented by a couple of extra features: an illustrated synopsis and a cast gallery. The production was expertly and effectively directed and produced for television by François Roussillon; a fact that makes the whole work even more attractive.

This Falstaff is immensely enjoyable and amongst the best that I have watched. I strongly recommend it whether you admire Verdi’s last work or not. This is an amiable, pleasing production with an exceptionally fine cast and truly great performances from the orchestra and choir.



Donald Feldman
American Record Guide, November 2010

VERDI, G.: Falstaff (Glyndebourne, 2009) (NTSC) OA1021D
VERDI, G.: Falstaff (Glyndebourne, 2009) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7053D

The stage sets are first rate. Costumes are effective…The image quality of the Blu-Ray coding is up to standard. A chorus member writing a blog on the festival described the cast being shocked at the tell-tale accuracy of their hair on the HD monitor.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.



Joel Kasow
Fanfare, September 2010

...Vladimir Jurowski leading a brisk performance and the London Philharmonic offering a colorful rendition. The singers wholeheartedly embrace Jones’s concept, with Christopoher Purves beyond reproach in the title role...with Adriana Kuńćerová displaying her shimmering soprano as Nanetta. Dina Kuznetsova and Jennifer Holloway make a good pair of merry wives, while Marie-Nicole Lemieux’s fruity lower notes suit Quickly. Bülent Bezdüz in military dress is a charmer...



Tim Pfaff
Bay Area Reporter, August 2010

It strains credibility to think that only two months earlier, Jones and Ultz had staged Verdi’s Falstaff for Glyndebourne, but there’s a live performance on DVD (Opus Arte) to prove it. It is sheer, gleaming genius from all concerned. Its setting is post-WWII, early 1950s England, and the updating is as surefooted and arresting in every sparkling detail as Verdi’s astonishing final score.






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2:19:57 AM, 28 December 2014
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