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
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