“Falstaff”: Verdi’s swan song at the National Opera

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The production is implemented with the support of the donation of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) for the strengthening of the artistic extroversion of the HEL.

The National Opera presents an ambitious new production of the comic opera “Falstaff” from January 26, 2023 for six performances in the Stavros Niarchos Hall at the SNFCC.

It is Giuseppe Verdi’s swan song, based on Shakespeare’s comedy “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and presented under the musical direction of Pier Giorgio Morandi and directed by the distinguished director and artistic director of the famous British Glidebourne Opera Festival, Stephen Langridge.

The leading Greek baritone Dimitris Platanias in the title role.

The production is implemented with the support of the donation of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) for the strengthening of the artistic extroversion of the HEL.

With “Falstaff” – his last opera – Verdi surprised everyone, as not many believed that the now 80-year-old composer would compose another important work – and a comic one at that – after the great success of “Othello” (1887 ).

After Macbeth and Othello Verdi turned one last time to William Shakespeare, choosing a comedy, The Merry Wives of Windsor.

In fact, at the end of 1890 the composer wrote: “I enjoy composing music; without plans of any kind and I don’t even know if I will finish it… I repeat… I enjoy it. Falstaff is a rogue, who commits all kinds of mischief… But in a fun way. He’s a guy. Guys are so different! The opera is completely comical! Amen”.

The work premiered at La Scala in Milan on 9 February 1893, with Edoardo Mascheroni conducting and French baritone Victor Morel in the title role, marking the triumphant conclusion of the composer’s illustrious career in lyric theatre.

In fact, the cheers after the premiere lasted half an hour. Before the end of the year, “Falstaff” had been staged in the most important musical capitals of the world, from Buenos Aires to St. Petersburg. On the occasion of the different performances the composer made minor modifications to the score, which continued until the premiere given at the Paris Opéra Comique in May 1894.

The central figure is the fallen knight Sir John Falstaff and his love affairs, which make him a laughing stock in the small local community.

At the end, after various comic-tragic situations, the characters of the play all sing together: “Everything in the world is a joke… but he who laughs last laughs best.”

Steven Langridge returns to ELLS after his successful direction in “Carmen” at Herodio, to create an extroverted, cheerful and extremely entertaining show.

Langridge, who since 2019 has taken over the artistic direction of the famous British opera festival Glidebourne, transfers the story of “Falstaff” to England in the 30s, a time dominated by the absurdity of social hierarchy, bordering on feudalism .

The director notes: “Falstaff is a comedy in the deepest sense of the word – often with elements of farce – but it gives us an insight into what is going on deep in the hearts of the characters. At the center of the whole play is Shakespeare’s and Verdi’s most beloved fiend: Falstaff himself.

Liar, swindler, schemer, sensualist, ambitious, old-fashioned… We must deplore him, yet we adore him with all the weaknesses of his human nature.

Our play is set in England in the 1930s. In 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 the King Edward VIII, and an era in which hierarchies are strict and social class more important than economic surface.

Falstaff is based on Shakespeare’s only purely English comedy, but its ending clearly bears the stamp of Verdi and Boito. “Tutto nel mondo è burla” (Everything in this world is a farce) – this is their conclusion – and if we look at today’s chaotic world around us, we can only agree, and then maybe go out for a warm beer and to laugh in the company of Sir John.”

The leading Greek baritone, with great international recognition, Dimitris Platanias makes his debut in the title role. In the leading roles are the distinguished soloists of the National Opera: Tassis Christogiannopoulos, Vassilis Kavagias, Nikos Stefanou, Yiannis Kalivas, Yiannis Giannisis, Tselia Kostea, Marilena Striftombola, Anna Agathonos and Chrysanthi Spitadis.

Distinguished Greek set designer and costume designer Giorgos Souglidis signs an impressive set and costume performance of the 1930s era in England, serving the director’s vision. Kinesiology is by Dan O’Neill and lighting by Peter Mumford.

It is conducted by the distinguished Italian chief musician Pier Giorgio Morandi, who has a special knowledge of the Italian repertoire and has appeared in the most important opera houses worldwide. The ELS Choir is directed by Agathangelos Georgakatos and the ELS Children’s Choir is directed by Konstantina Pitsiakou.

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