Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Verdi's `Falstaff': Rich and Brilliant

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Verdi's `Falstaff': Rich and Brilliant

Article excerpt

`FALSTAFF" occupies a curious place among the Verdi operas, not so much because it is the composer's only comedy worth noting but because it so lacking in typical Verdian melody. But as champions of "Falstaff" are quick to point out, the work is so rich in melody that it only seems tuneless.

Except for two brief episodes assigned to supporting characters, nothing in "Falstaff" resembles the sustained aria style for which Verdi is famous. On the other hand, almost nothing in "Falstaff" falls into the category of recitative. They are too numerous to count, and too close-packed to stay long in the memory; still, gorgeous little earfuls result from practically every breath the singers take.

The whirlwind musical energy that propels the score has its counterpart in the "Falstaff" staging that Opera Theatre of St. Louis presented at the Loretto-Hilton Center on Thursday evening.

Neil Peter Jampolis, who designed the sets and costumes as well as the action, takes a straightforward approach to the story.

Shakespeare perhaps had fuller characters in mind when he introduced them in his play "The Merry Wives of Windsor," but Arrigo Boito reduced them to stock figures when he made his "Falstaff" libretto for Verdi, and Jampolis pretty much goes by Boito's book. As Jampolis demonstrates in scene after scene, however, even stock figures can be plenty animated. The denizens of this "Falstaff" do precisely what's expected of them, but always in the liveliest, most engaging of manners.

For the most part, the singing, too, is lively and engaging.

This is not the most balanced cast that Opera Theatre has put together for Verdi. With bass-baritone David Evitts in the title role, it has a performer whose command of voice and body language are so complete that nothing else really seems to matter. But Evitts is not on stage all the time, and in his absence one does tend to notice slight but irritating failures of projection and diction.

Regarding diction, the audience at last week's "Candide" might have been misled into thinking that Opera Theatre had forever solved its problems. …

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