A lyric Comedy in three acts by GIUSEPPE VERDI.
Text by ARRIGO BOITO.
Nobody who hears this opera would believe, that it has been written by
a man in his eightieth year. So much freshness, wit and originality
seem to be the privilege of youth alone. But the wonder has been
achieved, and Verdi has won a complete success with an opera,--which
runs in altogether different lines from his old-ones, another wonder of
an abnormally strong and original mind.
Falstaff was first represented in Milan in February 1893; since then it
has made its way to all theatres of renown, and it is now indisputable
that we have in it a masterpiece of composition and orchestration.
Those who only look for the easy-flowing melodies of the younger Verdi
will be disappointed; art is predominant, besides an exuberant humour
full of charm for every cultivated hearer. The numbers which attract
most are the gossiping scene between the four women in the first act,
Falstaffs air "Auand'ero paggio del Duca di Norfolk era sottile" in the
second, and the fairy music in the last act.
The text is so well known to all readers of Shakespeare, that it may be
recorded quite shortly. It is almost literally that of the Merry Wives
of Windsor. The first scene is laid in the Garter Inn of that town.
After a quarrel with the French Physician Dr. Cajus, who has been
robbed while drunk by Falstaff's servants Bardolph and Pistol,
Falstaff orders them off with two love-letters for Mrs. Alice Ford and
Mrs. Meg Page. The Knaves refusing indignantly to take the parts of
go-betweens Falstaff sends them to the devil and gives the letters to
the page Robin.
In the second act the two ladies having shown each other the
love-letters, decide to avenge themselves on the old fat fool.
Meanwhile Falstaff's servants betray their master's intentions towards
Mrs. Ford to her husband, who swears to guard his wife, and to keep a
sharp eye on Sir John. Then ensues a love-scene between Fenton and Mr.
Ford's daughter Anna, who is destined by her father to marry the rich
Dr. Cajus, but who by far prefers her poor suitor Fenton.
After a while the merry Wives assemble again, in order to entice
Falstaff into a trap. Mrs. Quickley brings him an invitation to Mrs.
Ford's house in absence of the lady's husband, which Sir John accepts
Sir John is visited by Mr. Ford, who assumes the name of Mr. Born, and
is nothing loth to drink the bottles of old Cypros-wine, which the
latter has brought with him. Born also produces a purse filled with
sovereigns, and entreats Falstaff to use it in order to get admittance
to a certain Mrs. Ford, whose favour Born vainly sought. Falstaff
gleefully reveals the rendez-vous, which he is to have with the lady
and thereby leaves poor disguised Mr. Ford a prey to violent jealousy.
The next scene contains Falstaff's well-known interview with
mischievous Alice Ford, which is interrupted by Mrs. Meg's announcement
of the husband.
Falstaff is packed into a washing-basket, while husband and neighbours
search for him in vain. This scene, in which Falstaff, half
suffocated, alternately sighs and begs to be let out, while the women
tranquilly sit on the basket and enjoy their trick, is extremely comic.
The basket with Falstaff, full wash and all is turned over into a
canal, accompanied by the women's laughter.
In the third act Mrs. Quickley succeeds once more to entice the old
fool. She orders him to another rendez-vous in the Park at midnight,
and advises him to come in the disguise of Herne the black hunter. The
others hear of the joke and all decide to punish him thoroughly for his
fatuity. Ford, who has promised Dr. Cajus, to unite Anna to him the
very night, tells him to wear a monk's garb, and also reveals to him,
that Anna is to wear a white dress with roses. But his wife,
overhearing this, frustrates his designs. She gives a black monk's
garb to Fenton, while Anna chooses the costume of the Fairy-Queen
Titania. When Falstaff appears in his disguise he is attacked on all
sides by fairies, wasps, flies and mosquitos and they torment him so
long, until he cries for mercy. Meanwhile Cajus, in a grey monk's garb
looks for his bride everywhere until a tall veiled female in flowing
white robes (Bardolph) falls into his arms; on the other side Anna
appears with Fenton. Both couples are wedded, and only when they
unveil, the mistake is discovered. With bitter shame the men see how
they have all been duped by some merry and clever women, but they have
to make the best of a bad case, and so Ford grants his benediction to
the happy lovers, and embraces his wife, only too glad to find her true