Falstaff – Edinburgh International Festival

Conducted by Stuart Stratford

Libretto by Giuseppe Verdi

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Giuseppe Verdi’s final opera Falstaff emphasises the comedic aspects of the mistaken identities, love triangles and caddish rogues who litter history. Adapted from Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor, the opera follows Sir John Falstaff, as plump as he is lustful, as he attempts to keep his dwindling reputation as a well-to-do man. Falstaff sends two identical letters, save for the names, to Alice Ford and Meg Page, women of nobility with husbands with heavy coin purses. How could this possibly go awry?

The revelry and exuberance of Falstaff is a stark reminder of the capabilities of Scottish Opera, with Sir David McVicar’s new staging leaning heavily into the comedic and performative aspects. It’s a tremendous challenge to capture the epic nature of Verdi’s opera in a theatre under COVID restrictions, and yet in the darkness of the Festival Theatre a ripple of laughter emerges, a returning spark flickering.

Roland Wood is intoxicating as the rakish Sir John, and Elizabeth Llewellyn’s Alice is just as compelling, cunning and precise. It’s a glory to behold the character getting one over on this cad. Visually, Falstaff is impressive. In the finale, the Old Oak Tree makes way for flights of fancy and exceptional spectral creations from McVicar and associate designer Lorna Price.

Falstaff is a celebration of music, but more notably of revelry and joy. It’s a celebration of a return to the stage, a return to the International Festival, and a return to what makes Scottish Opera so unique.

Review published for The Skinny

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