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2006, Lucerne Festival, Falstaff

Falstaff

Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Librettist: Arrigo Boito, after Shakespeare’s comedy, The Merry Wives of Windsor
Venue and Dates: Lucerne Festival Hall
3 September 2006

(Semi-staged)

Conductor: Franz Welser-Möst
Performers:
Sir John Falstaff : Richard Sutcliff
Ford : Simon Keenlyside
Fenton : Cataldo Caputo
Dr Cajus : Max René Cosotti
Bardolfo : Scott Scully
Pistola : Ain Anger
Alice Ford : Twyla Robinson
Nannetta : Cinzia Forte
Mistress Quickly : Felicity Palmer
Meg Page : Kelley O’Connor
The Cleveland Orchestra
Lucerne Festival Academy Vocalists
Mozart Ensemble Lucerne

Soundbites

Tagblatt, 6 September 2006 (Mario Gerteis)

Translated by Ursula Turecek

The concert podium as theatre stage

The Cleveland Orchestra tested the Lucerne Festival as theatre: Franz Welser-Möst risked an attempt with Verdi’s “Falstaff”.

Is it at all possible to transplant Verdi’s last opera that lives so much by tempo and action into a concert hall? The performance of “Falstaff” in the KKL did not wipe away the scepticism. Behind the orchestra there was a podium where the protagonists moved discreetly. In addition there was a suggestion of scenery with screens, a laundry basket and a few animal masks.

Inner imagination

But real agility took place not so much in the effective theatre paraphernalia but in the orchestra. Here Welser-Möst could play off his operatic experience. He succeeded in swearing in a concert ensemble like the Cleveland Orchestra brilliantly into Verdi’s witty score. He never covered his vocal soloists – a fact that exposed their different qualities. Top marks for Felicity Palmer and Simon Keenlyside, while Richard Sutcliff in the name part did not make us forget that he – Thomas Quasthoff and Renato Bruson having cancelled – was the third choice.

Die Presse, 5 September 2006 (Wilhelm Sinkovicz)

Translated by Ursula Turecek

This year there’ll be much to report from the Festival in Lucerne so rich in respect of content. But first of all a few notes on the concert performance of Verdi’s “Falstaff”. A concert performance, you may ask, for such an eventful piece that almost begs for the stage with so much subtly branching action?

Exactly, a concert performance! Or rather: semi-staged, because the protagonists act as much as the narrow space on the podium allows, with few props; and this becomes in all its sketchiness one of the most vivid and diverting “Falstaff”-performances you may think of.

Due to Franz Welser-Möst’s subtly distinguishing conducting, every nuance within the network of the respective parts – from the magnificent woodwind solos to the separate threads in the final fugue’s confusion – comes to light clearly and with the necessary connotations in the phenomenal Cleveland Orchestra’s playing. That this expert orchestra from America with its symphonic training is not contaminated with operatic routine forces the conductor to piece together the tightly composed score precisely, like Swiss clockwork. That in doing so he keeps a general view of the dramaturgic process turns the musicians to stars.

Especially as the ensemble, led by Richard Sutcliff who is actually corpulent and vocally a rather more wicked and perfidious than jovial Falstaff, is brilliant rather due to its conjoint appetite for singing together than because of the soloists’ masterly achievements. (Except for Felicity Palmer’s marvellous Quickly and Simon Keenlyside’s sonorous Ford.) The lesson from this: Opera does not need scenic frippery – above all of an alienating nature. When music speaks there is only need of a little optic effort to rev the audience’s imagination. A perspective for the future? To offer a much larger quantity of new productions than those opera houses can convey to us nowadays would keep the interest alive; even between the “great” premieres.

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