I traveled to New Hampshire again last Saturday evening, August 18, to see Opera North's production of Verdi's Falstaff. This was Verdi's final opera, written after he had completed Otello, which had premiered when he was 70 years old. He was 80 when Falstaff received its first production, what I consider to be an amazing feat. His librettist was Arrigo Boito (composer of the operas Mefistofele and Nerone, although the latter opera is not often performed outside Europe), whose distinctive scoring can be heard now and then in Falstaff. The libretto is based on Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor, plus Falstaff's famous speech on honor, which occupies the major portion of the first scene of the first act. For me, Boitos finished work and Verdi's music coalesce into a much greater work than Shakespeare's original.
Claudia White, the Turandot about whom I spoke last week, sang the role of Alice Ford, and was as vocally secure as she had been in that role. She also portrayed a character that was full of vivacity and laughter and high spirits, quite different from the morbid Turandot. This young soprano alternated the two roles onfour consecutive days, including a matinee of Turandot on the 19th; she is scheduled to alternate the two roles once again for five consecutive days including a matinee beginning the 21st. She must certainly have her vocal technique well in tow to be able to agree to such a scheduling. I applaud her sense of security as an artist, but perhaps the cover for her for one of the two roles or both will be on hand to do a single performance (none, however, being indicated in the program). If one does not hear great things of this young soprano, it will not be because she does not know her craft and does not have a resulting voice and an acting technique that makes her stand out already.