Falstaff





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

triumphantly.



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

and faithful.





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