Auckland Opera Forum


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Tuesday, 06 November 7:30pm


An Opera in Three Acts

by Giuseppe Verdi (1813 – 1901)

Libretto by Arrigo Boito
based on Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 and The Merry Wives of Windsor
by William Shakespeare

Premiered in Teatro alla Scala, Milan on 9 February 1893


Sir John Falstaff
Mrs Alice Ford
Mistress Quickly
Mistress Meg Page
Doctor Caius
Landlord of the Garter Inn

Robin, Falstaff’s page-boy
Ambrogio Maestri bass-baritone
Barbara Frittoli soprano
Roberto Frontali baritone
Inva Mula lyric soprano
Juan Diego Flórez tenor
Bernadette Manca di Nissa contralto
Anna Caterina Antonacci mezzo-soprano
Luigi Roni bass
Paolo Barbacini tenor
Ernesto Gavazzi tenor
Walter Valdi actor
Ilaria Canova actor


2001 La Scala production recorded at the Teatro Verdi, Busseto
Direction by Ruggero Cappuccio
and for television by Pierre Cavasillas
after a 1913 staging by the Teatro Verdi, Busseto
Art Direction by Lucia Goj
Costume Design by Carlo Poggioli
The Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro alla Scala conducted by Riccardo Muti


Act One

In the Garter Inn, Sir John Falstaff plans to replenish his purse by wooing two Windsor wives, Alice Ford and Meg Page.

In Ford’s garden, Alica and Meg compare identical letters received from Falstaff, and plan to make merry at his expense.

Ford, an irrationally jealous husband, learns of Falstaff’s plan from Pistol and Bardolph, Falstaff’s retainers, and decides to catch his wife and the knight together.

Ford’s daughter, Nannetta and Fenton, with whom she is in love – against Ford’s wishes, as he wants her to marry Dr Caius – seize their chance of being alone for a moment.

Act Two

In the Garter Inn, Mistress Quickly tells Falstaff that Alice will receive him that day between two and three. Ford, disguised as a ‘Mr Brook’, asks Falstaff to seduce Alice, so that, having once fallen, she will then more readily fall into his own arms.

Falstaff reveals that he is on his way to Alice. Ford expresses his jealous fury.

In Ford’s house, the women prepare for Falstaff’s reception.

His love-making is interrupted by Meg pretending that Ford is returning, and then by an alarmed Quickly, crying that Ford really is on his way.

Falstaff is hidden behind a screen, then in a laundry basket.

Nannetta and Fenton steal behind the screen; Ford hears them kissing and thinks he has found Alice and Falstaff.

The laundry basket, with Falstaff in it, is tumbled into the Thames.

Act Three

Outside the Garter Inn in the evening sunlight, Falstaff’s railing at the wicked world, under the influence of wine, turns gradually to contentment.

Quickly arrives to announce a new rendezvous with Alice, in Windsor Park at midnight; Falstaff must come dressed as the Black Huntsman.

The others eavesdrop. They will all be there , in various disguises.

In Windsor Park on a moonlit midnight, Fenton sings of his love. Falstaff and Alice meet , but are interrupted by a band of fairies and demons, who (after Nannetta has sung a fairy song ) torment Falstaff.

At length, he recognises Bardolph, and the others reveal themselves.

Falstaff is disconcerted but rallies grandly, proudly proclaiming himself a source of wit in others.

Ford blesses a couple dressed as the Fairy Queen and a monk, and then another couple similarly dressed; they prove to be Caius with Bardolph, and Nannetta with Fenton; the merry wives have tricked Ford too.

All is forgiven, and everyone joins in a fugue: ‘Everything in the world is a joke’.