Magazine article The Spectator

Raging into Old Age

Magazine article The Spectator

Raging into Old Age

Article excerpt

ENO's new production of Falstaff is a collaboration with Opera North, so I must have seen it before, though much of it struck me as different, but that may be a failure of memory. The snowstorm raging outside the Garter Inn remains, but when I saw it last I wasn't so impressed by the lengthy perspectives, possibly the result of using the full depth of the Coliseum stage; nor by the Masaccio-style costumes and poses, and Vermeerish lighting effects. There are illustrations in the programme book of perspective boxes and demonstrations of foreshortened objects, and the article by Germaine Greer is on `Two Perspectives'. They (perspectives) are very big in critical theory and some parts of philosophy these days, but I can't see that they illuminate Verdi's last opera; of course it is about old age and young love seen from the point of view of old age, and Roger Parker in his programme article claims that it is also the history of Italian opera written by an anxious oldster. But it isn't difficult to see that most (Nietzsche would say all) human registrations of and reports on experience are from a point of view, and though that may be wrong I can't see that Falstaff in particular requires this quasiconceptual apparatus with sets to match. They are an odd lot, mostly Italianate, the first scene of Act III more de Chirico, a long and almost featureless street.

I wonder whether it was chance or design which has the three wives as tall, statuesque figures, while Nanetta, played by Mary Plazas, is so diminutive that with them she seems like a child, while with Charles Workman's Fenton she is dwarflike. The effect is at first quite amusing, a good thing since very little else about the production is. Rita Cullis is an admirable artist, but she is no comedienne, and even Catherine Wyn-Rogers seemed in low spirits. Her obeisances to Falstaff were underplayed and undersung. This is, and I approve in principle since I find the jokes in Falstaff both weak and repetitive, a serious account.

That is how Alan Opie clearly sees it, and his performance of the title role, his debut in the part, is all threadbare grandeur and Yeatsian lust and rage dancing attendance on his old age. That is not, I think, Verdi's opera but it makes for interest in a work which has long inert passages. I have finally put my finger on what I find least appealing about Falstaff It is overextended. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.