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Opera

FALSTAFF

Giuseppe Verdi

133'

From to

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Description

Greek National Opera's ambitious new production of the comic opera Falstaff comes on GNO TV. Giuseppe Verdi’s swan song, based on the Shakespeare comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor, is being conducted by Pier Giorgio Morandi and directed by the acclaimed director, and Artistic Director of the UK’s renowned Glyndebourne Opera Festival, Stephen Langridge. Performing the title role is the outstanding Greek baritone Dimitri Platanias. This production is made possible by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) to enhance the GNO’s artistic outreach.

The opera has justly been called a masterpiece of the genre for its expressive economy and concise form – for its composer’s ability to encapsulate entire characters and situations with a single musical phrase. Indeed, the majority of the work is marked by sustained and often blistering shifts in tempo and tone, and between short melodic themes or harmonies. Falstaff himself is the opera’s only true lead role, around which everyone else revolves. Verdi avails himself of a vast palette in order to render the various facets of the main character. In his two monologues, Falstaff condemns the world as unfair and lectures on morality, and goes on to appear before Alice as a great heartbreaker and before her husband, Ford, as a vain knight, before ending up a laughingstock in the forest scene.

Making his debut in the title role is the outstanding Greek baritone Dimitri Platanias, a soloist celebrated around the world. Performing the lead roles are the acclaimed Greek National Opera soloists Tassis Christoyannis, Vassilis Kavayas, Nicholas Stefanou, Yannis Kalyvas, Yanni Yannissis, Cellia Costea, Marilena Striftobola, Anna Agathonos, and Chrysanthi Spitadi.

The production is being staged by the eminent director Stephen Langridge, who is returning to the GNO –following his successful staging of Carmen at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus– to create this outgoing, light-hearted, and wonderfully entertaining new production. Langridge, who was appointed Artistic Director of the UK’s renowned Glyndebourne Opera Festival in 2019, shifts the setting of Falstaff’s story to 1930s England, to a time dominated by the absurdity of a social hierarchy that bordered on feudalism.

Creative team – Cast

Conductor Pier Giorgio Morandi
Director Stephen Langridge
Sets, costumes George Souglides
Movement director Dan O’Neill
Lighting Peter Mumford
Chorus master Agathangelos Georgakatos
Children’s chorus mistress Konstantina Pitsiakou


CAST

Sir John Falstaff Dimitri Platanias
Ford Tassis Christoyannis
Fenton Vassilis Kavayas
Dr Caius Nicholas Stefanou
Bardolfo Yannis Kalyvas
Pistola Yanni Yannissis
Alice Ford Cellia Costea
Nannetta Marilena Striftobola
Mistress Quickly Anna Agathonos
Meg Page Chrysanthi Spitadi
With the Orchestra, Chorus and Children’s Chorus of the Greek National Opera (as part of its educational mission)

Director's note

Falstaff is a comedy in the deepest sense – often farcical, but also offering a window into the hearts of the characters. At the centre of it all is Verdi and Shakespeare’s most loveable rogue: Falstaff himself. A liar, a cheat, a trickster; sensuous, vain, old-fashioned… We ought to disapprove, but we adore him in all his flawed humanity. Our production is set in England in the 1930s. A time between the wars (Falstaff was an old soldier), with a scandalous Prince of Wales (like Hal in Henry IV) who will briefly become King Edward VIII, and a time when the hierarchies are rigid, with social class more respected than money. Falstaff is based on Shakespeare’s only fully English comedy, but the end is pure Verdi / Boito. ‘Tutto nel mondo è burla’ [All the world’s a jest] is their conclusion – and when we look around us at today’s chaotic world we can only agree, and then perhaps head off to the pub for a pint of warm ale and a laugh with Sir John!”

Photos & videos

Photos

Reviews

An enchanting comedy

How is it that a fat old man called Falstaff keeps taking over the opera stage without there being an outcry and people taking offence at the clichéd portrayal of this underdog?

Stephen Langridge, director of the Greek National Opera's new Falstaff production, points out that Falstaff practically gives us official permission to laugh at him and gloat. "Being fat is part of his personality. He didn't just accept the role as an overweight man, he chose it." Falstaff is not ashamed, he says, but happy - with his body. "I'm gorgeous!", Langridge has Falstaff say. While the residents of Windsor work on their physical appearance in the gym, Falstaff prefers to use this time for darts, attempts at conquest and alcohol. In other words, he is a man of pleasure. Of course, he also has to accept setbacks, such as the involuntary trip into the Thames. But he is a stand-up guy who has internalised the lightness of life more than his supposedly more successful and popular fellow men. Admirable?!

Within this framework, the very well rehearsed and coordinated ensemble plays an enchanting comedy. All the characters are finely fleshed out, the plot sparkles with wit and charm.

Markus Wilks, Das Opernglas

Langridge's storytelling production is detailed and beautifully observed.

In the spirit of Verdi's action - which of course starts immediately, uniquely in his output, without an overture or prelude - Langridge's storytelling production is detailed and beautifully observed. 

At the head of an almost entirely Greek cast, Dimitri Platanias was singing his first Falstaff, and proved himself again a serious performer with absolute grasp of the way text and music work together. This was a Falstaff supremely confident in his own considerable skin, not playing the role unduly for laughs.

John Allison, Opera

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