Sébastien Mathé / OnP

Opera

Falstaff

Giuseppe Verdi

Opéra Bastille

from 26 October to 16 November 2017

2h40 with 1 interval

Falstaff

Opéra Bastille - from 26 October to 16 November 2017

Synopsis

There is no work to compare with Falstaff. In his last opera, Giuseppe Verdi, then aged eighty-four, delivered, from behind the mask of his buffoon-like rascal of a hero, the testimony of a life approaching its end and whose moral, like that of the opera, would be: life is but a joke. This indefinable comedy, tinged with pessimism, defies all the conventions of 19th century Italian opera and testifies to Verdi’s passion for the theatre. Dominique Pitoiset’s witty, humorous production brings these eccentric characters to life and their sparkling interplay maintains a perfect balance between fantasy and reality, the very essence of the work.

Duration : 2h40 with 1 interval

Language : Italian

Surtitle : French / English

Show acts and characters

CHARACTERS

Sir John Falstaff: a ruined gentleman, a buffoon and a boaster
Ford: a rich man of Windsor
Alice Ford: Ford’s wife
Meg Page: a friend of Alice
Mrs Quickly: a townswoman of Windsor
Nannetta: Alice and Ford’s daughter
Fenton: in love with Nannetta
Pistola and Bardolfo: Falstaff’s servants
Dr Caius: Nannetta’s unwelcome suitor  

Act I
Doctor Caius accuses Falstaff of having forced his way into his rooms and his two accomplices, Bardolfo and Pistola, of having made him drink in order to rob him. The three accused throw him out. Falstaff realises that he does not have a single penny left and accuses his accomplices of being the cause of his ruin. He confides in them and presents his latest scheme for obtaining money. He is convinced that Alice Ford and Meg Page, two rich townswomen of Windsor, are both ready to succumb to his charms. He plans to seduce them both and thus restore his finances. He has written each of them a love letter which he asks Bardolfo and Pistola to deliver. The latter, invoking their honour, refuse to serve as go-betweens. Falstaff, in a mighty tirade, launches an attack on honour, this vain notion that does nothing to feed a man, before dismissing his servants. Alice Ford and her daughter Nannetta meet Mistress Quickly and Meg Page. Alice informs them that she has received a love letter. Exchanging their letters, the two women discover that they are identical. They immediately decide to take their revenge. Ford arrives in the company of Caius and young Fenton along with Bardolfo and Pistola, who have decided to take their revenge on Falstaff for dismissing them. Men and women alike devise their own plans for revenge. Nannetta and Fenton, who are secretly in love, take advantage of the situation to exchange tender kisses.

Act II
Mistress Quickly arrives claiming to bear messages from Alice and Meg. She announces to Falstaff that Alice, in her husband’s absence, awaits him that very afternoon. Falstaff is full of himself. In spite of his age and portliness, women are still ready to risk everything for him. Ford in turn comes to visit Sir John under a false identity. He claims to be in love with the beautiful Mrs Ford whose virtue is such that all attempts at seduction are in vain. Should Falstaff manage to seduce her, then he too might have some cause for hope, since “one slip may lead to another…”. Falstaff then reveals to him that he has already made substantial progress. Ford is convinced that his wife has betrayed him. Scarcely controlling himself, he remains alone and curses all women in a ferocious monologue. The four women fix the final details of their revenge. Nannetta is sad: her father wants her to marry Doctor Caius. Her mother and friends swear to prevent the marriage. Falstaff arrives with a flood of gallant remarks and cooing. Meg bursts in pretending to be anxious and announces that Ford has had wind of the rendezvous and is on her heels. Mistress Quickly in turn arrives. It is no longer a joke: Ford really is about to arrive. They hide Falstaff behind a screen at first and then in a laundry basket. Ford, followed by Caius, Bardolfo, Pistola and several neighbours move heaven and earth to chase out the suitor, whilst Nannetta and Fenton take advantage of the situation to hide behind the screen. The sound of a rather noisy kiss attracts the attention of Ford, who discovers the lovers. Ever angrier, he continues his search throughout the house. Alice returns accompanied by several servants whom she requests to throw the laundry basket through the window. When Ford reappears, he discovers Falstaff splashing around in the Thames.

Act III
Falstaff ruminates grimly on the wickedness of the world. Mistress Quickly arrives and explains that he is a victim of circumstances and that Alice is truly sorry about the outcome of the adventure. She hands him a note from Alice proposing a midnight rendezvous at Herne’s Oak. He is to go disguised as the Black Huntsman. Alice explains to her friends how she intends to use the legend of the Black Huntsman to take her revenge on Falstaff. Each of them has a role to play in the comedy. Ford hopes to take advantage of the circumstances to force Nannetta into a trap and oblige her to marry Caius. Alice dresses Fenton in the same disguise as Caius. As midnight chimes, Falstaff enters, dressed as the Black Huntsman. He begins to court Alice but frightening sounds are heard. Pretending to be afraid, Alice flees. The Queen of the Fairies appears (Nannetta in disguise) and summons the spirits. Terrified, Falstaff throw himself to the ground face down. All the townsfolk of Windsor arrive disguised as fantastic creatures. They jostle and abuse Falstaff in order to force him to beg pardon for his faults. Suddenly recognising Bardolfo, Falstaff realises that he is once again the victim of a farce. Ford announces that the wedding of the Queen of Fairies is to crown the festivities. However, two couples, dressed and masked identically, ask for his blessing. When the masks fall, Caius discovers that he has just married Bardolfo, whilst Ford realises that he has just handed over his daughter to Fenton. Ford can but forgive the lovers, and Falstaff concludes, followed by the other characters in chorus, that “Everything in the world’s a jest”.

Artists

Lyric commedy in three acts (1893)

After The Merry Wives of Windsor and scenes from Henri IV by William Shakespeare

Creative team

Cast

Orchestre et Choeurs de l’Opéra national de Paris

Media

  • Podcast Falstaff

    Podcast Falstaff

    Listen the podcast

  • Dominique Pitoiset looks back at Falstaff

    Dominique Pitoiset looks back at Falstaff

    Read the article

Podcast Falstaff

Listen the podcast

"Dance! Sing! 7 minutes at the Paris Opera" by France Musique

Podcast Falstaff

By Judith Chaine, France Musique

"Dance! Sing! 7 minutes at the Paris Opera" offers original incursions into the season thanks to broadcasts produced by France Musique and the Paris Opera. For each opera or ballet production, Judith Chaine (opera) and Stéphane Grant (dance), present the works and artists you are going to discover when you attend performances in our theatres.

© Sébastien Mathé / OnP

Dominique Pitoiset looks back at Falstaff

Read the article

Interview with the stage director

04 min

Dominique Pitoiset looks back at Falstaff

By Marion Mirande

Created in 1999, Dominique Pitoiset's production of Falstaff makes its return to the stage of the Opéra Bastille. When it was last revived, the director discussed his production that brims over with vitality and charm.


Tell us about your first encounter with Falstaff.

I first got to know Falstaff through Shakespeare. At the time of this production's creation, I'd had some major successes in the theatre with Love's Labour's Lost, The Tempest and Macbeth. I had come out of the German school, and had been assistant to Karge and Langhoff, then Giorgio Strehler, who himself had been Bertolt Brecht's assistant. So my approach to Verdi came about via a post-Brechtian, "tangible" theatre. We thought about the mediation of objects, how to increase the focal points of the interaction between the singers. This worked rather well with Verdi because with him, the movements are "musicalised" – dictated by the musical writing.


How did you come to conceive this production and its aesthetic?

I had taken it on with the conviction that we shouldn't do anything too contemporary with it, while being aware that an Elizabethan aesthetic wouldn't dialogue at all well with Verdi's music. I thought it would be interesting to exploit the discrepancies by creating a world on stage that was visually closer to Verdi than Shakespeare. It's a production from the previous century, with an aesthetic that's a very far cry from my current projects. My standpoint would be different if I had to stage the work again. However, looking at the staging, I find it has a lot of charm, and I've immersed myself in it again just as you'd enjoy rediscovering an old comic book tucked away on a shelf.
This staging is full of the ghosts of those who have inhabited it – and there are a lot of them. At the opera, the history of revivals is full of memories and the human element. If a production works and carries on for years, it's thanks to the community of artists and technical teams who keep the whole idea alive. This is something we don't see as stage directors. Once the first night is over, we generally turn the page, ease off the pressure and move onto something else.

Dominique Pitoiset et Varduhi Abrahamyan (Mrs Quickly) en répétition
Dominique Pitoiset et Varduhi Abrahamyan (Mrs Quickly) en répétition © Eléna Bauer / OnP

How much room for manoeuvre do you have with a revival?

Changes always depend on the new singers' relationship with their roles, what their interpretation allows and the way they move. With time, I have learned to observe them. Then I can make adjustments and guide them along paths where they can develop. If you look at past revivals of this production, there have been some very different Falstaffs and Alices, for example. You have to factor in the artists' singularities and requirements. Opera is a world where, with very short rehearsal times, people are putting their reputations on the line, and it's pretty scary. With the passing years and each new project, my own fears have gradually subsided, and I now take great pleasure in helping performers confront their anxieties more calmly.


Can you tell us a bit about the character of Falstaff?

When I look back at this production, I think about the film by Orson Welles, and that brilliant scene, played with incredible finesse, when the young king ascends the throne. Falstaff, who knows him well, is in the crowd and shouts out to him, trying to attract his attention. But the king pretends not to see him, and magisterially disowns him. That scene alone encapsulates Falstaff: a buffoon for whom the whole world is just a joke – and that aspect is what deeply touched the maestro Verdi, I feel.

  • Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi (Julie Fuchs & Francesco Demuro)
  • Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi (Franco Vassallo)
  • Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi (Bryn Terfel & Varduhi Abrahamyan)
  • Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi (Bryn Terfel & Franco Vassallo)
  • Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi (Aleksandra Kurzak)
  • Falstaff - Trailer
  • Falstaff - Extrait
  • Falstaff - Air de Mrs Quickly et Sir John Falstaff (Varduhi Abrahamyan et Bryn Terfel)

  • Falstaff - Air de Sir John Falstaff et Ford(Bryn Terfel et Franco Vassallo)

  • Falstaff - « L’amor, l’amor, che non ci da mai tregue… »

Access and services

Opéra Bastille

Place de la Bastille

75012 Paris

Public transport

Underground Bastille (lignes 1, 5 et 8), Gare de Lyon (RER)

Bus 29, 69, 76, 86, 87, 91, N01, N02, N11, N16

Calculate my route
Car park

Q-Park Opéra Bastille 34, rue de Lyon 75012 Paris

Book your parking spot

In both our venues, discounted tickets are sold at the box offices from 30 minutes before the show:

  • €35 tickets for under-28s, unemployed people (with documentary proof less than 3 months old) and senior citizens over 65 with non-taxable income (proof of tax exemption for the current year required)
  • €70 tickets for senior citizens over 65

Get samples of the operas and ballets at the Paris Opera gift shops: programmes, books, recordings, and also stationery, jewellery, shirts, homeware and honey from Paris Opera.

Opéra Bastille
  • Open 1h before performances and until performances end
  • Get in from within the theatre’s public areas
  • For more information: +33 1 40 01 17 82

Opéra Bastille

Place de la Bastille

75012 Paris

Public transport

Underground Bastille (lignes 1, 5 et 8), Gare de Lyon (RER)

Bus 29, 69, 76, 86, 87, 91, N01, N02, N11, N16

Calculate my route
Car park

Q-Park Opéra Bastille 34, rue de Lyon 75012 Paris

Book your parking spot

In both our venues, discounted tickets are sold at the box offices from 30 minutes before the show:

  • €35 tickets for under-28s, unemployed people (with documentary proof less than 3 months old) and senior citizens over 65 with non-taxable income (proof of tax exemption for the current year required)
  • €70 tickets for senior citizens over 65

Get samples of the operas and ballets at the Paris Opera gift shops: programmes, books, recordings, and also stationery, jewellery, shirts, homeware and honey from Paris Opera.

Opéra Bastille
  • Open 1h before performances and until performances end
  • Get in from within the theatre’s public areas
  • For more information: +33 1 40 01 17 82

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