Palm Beach Opera – Verdi’s Falstaff – Michael Chioldi, Amber Wagner, Andrew Manea; Directed By Garnett Bruce; Conducted By Antonello Allemandi

Falstaff – Commedia lirica in three Acts to a libretto by Arrigo Boito after William Shakespeare’s plays The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV Parts I & II [sung in Italian, with English supertitles by Cori Ellison]


Sir John Falstaff – Michael Chioldi
Bardolfo – Bergsvein Toverud
Pistola – Eric Delagrange
Dr Caius – Thomas Glenn
Ford – Andrew Manea
Alice Ford – Amber Wagner
Meg Page – Meridian Prall
Mistress Quickly – Lauren Decker
Nannetta – Andrea Carroll
Fenton – Anthony Ciaramitaro

Palm Beach Opera Chorus & Orchestra
Antonello Allemandi

Garnett Bruce – Director
Wolfram Skalicki – Scenery Designer
Susan Memmott Alfred – Costume Designer
Ron Wolek – Hair & Makeup Designer
James Sale – Lighting Designer

5 of 5 stars

Reviewed by: David M. Rice

Reviewed: 24 March, 2023
Venue: Dreyfoos Concert Hall, Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, West Palm Beach, Florida

To close its 2023 season, Palm Beach Opera offers an outstanding production of Verdi’s final opera, Falstaff. Michael Chioldi portrays Sir John Falstaff with vocal power and brilliant comedic skills, endearing his character to us from the outset. His ‘Onore’ discourse on the meaning of “honor” at the end of the opening scene is terrific.

The other excellent principals all portray adversaries of the corpulent knight, including a quartet of women who scheme to humiliate him, and a diverse collection of men who each oppose himin one way or another. The brilliant singing of these two groups is masterfully kept in sync by Antonello Allemandi.

The main plot revolves around Falstaff’s pathetic attempt to seduce Alice Ford and Meg Page, to whom he has foolishly sent identical love letters. These ‘Merry Wives’ plot revenge, with Amber Wagner’s Alice at the forefront of a vocally outstanding ensemble.

Andrew Manea gives a strong portrayal of Ford, who disguises himself and bribes Falstaff to woo his wife. The knight’s gleeful anticipation of his already planned assignation with Alice confirms Ford’s belief that she has deceived him, and his ‘E sogno?’ powerfully expresses Ford’s jealous suspicions. Bergsvein Toverud and Eric Delagrange are excellent and consistently amusing as Falstaff’s rather disloyal henchmen, Bardolfo and Pistola.

A secondary plot involves the conflict between the romantic aspirations of Nannetta and her suitor Fenton and Ford’s plan to compel his daughter to wed the much older Dr. Caius, who is given an appropriately annoying personality by Thomas Glenn. The young couple’s gorgeous love duets keep us rooting for the happy resolution that ultimately does thwart Ford’s plan. Their solos in the final scene in Windsor forest are highlights.

Garnett Bruce’s adept direction and Allemandi’s idiomatic conducting bring out both the beauty and humor of Verdi’s score, which illustrates the singers’ words and gestures with extraordinary precision. The perfectly timed orchestral accompaniment to Falstaff’s gestures when he shakes the pouch of coins that Ford has offered him is particularly delightful, as is the staging of Ford’s frantic search for Falstaff that instead reveals Fenton and Nannetta kissing behind a screen.

Wolfram Skalicki’s simple but effective set adapts a fixed two-story structure to create various interior and exterior locales at the Garter Inn and Ford’s house, and remains in place surrounding Herne’s Oak, the centerpiece of the final scene. Scenery changes are carried out behind a curtain depicting the exterior of the Inn.  Susan Memmott Alfred’s attractive costumes are faithful to the period.

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