Verdi: Falstaff (Glyndebourne, 2009)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Verdi
LABELS: Opus Arte
WORKS: Falstaff (Glyndebourne, 2009)
PERFORMER: Christopher Purves, Tassis Christoyannis, Dina Kuznetsova, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Adriana Kucerova, Bülent Bezdüz, Jennifer Holloway, Peter Hoare, Paolo Battaglia, Alasdair Elliott; Glyndebourne Chorus; LPO/Vladimir Jurowski; dir. Richard Jones
CATALOGUE NO: OA 1021 D (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)

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 Some of Glyndebourne’s more entrenched punters took umbrage at Richard Jones’s updating of Falstaff to a 1940s Ealing-comedy Windsor. Most, though, as you can hear throughout this film, roared at the gags in a production so sharply coordinated with the music.

Consummate singer-actor Christopher Purves swaps the beans of Jones’s WNO Wozzeck – surely worth capturing on DVD – for the cabbages of this Falstaff (note how Jones can take a line in each opera and weave a whole fantasy around it).

Every waddle up the Garter stairs and nimble skip down it, lewd swaying to ‘va, vecchio John’, and ground-scraping staggering in the Royal Park is a masterpiece of comic timing. But this performance is also beautifully sung, capturing the Italianate ardour within the bosom of Windsor’s beached whale.

Purves’s one to ones benefit from filmed close-up, not least in the first scene of Act II, Scene 1 with Marie-Nicole Lemieux’s Quickly, a buttoned-up Sapphic in uniform, and Tassis Christoyannis’s bug-eyed Ford, already preparing for his role as Bela Lugosi’s Dracula in the spooking final scene and very eloquent with his hand gestures.

Dina Kuznetsova only properly relaxes in the narration of Herne’s haunting, and Adriana Kucerova’s sweet Nannetta seems a little uneasy as Max Reinhardt’s Titania, but the smaller roles are all etched with admirable detail, and don’t miss the cats in each scene.

The tableaux are nimbly lit and amusingly contrasted, from the Tudorbethan bleakness of the Garter Inn (opened up in the post-dunking scene) to the cabbages and lettuces of austerity Britain and the bright spick-and-span casa Ford.

Vladimir Jurowski’s immaculately co-ordinated interpretation is a little over-careful in Act I; that and the final scene, for all its witty references to 1930s Hollywood movies, are four-star potential – but as always with Jones, what’s good elsewhere is great.

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A shame there’s none of the usual enjoyable Glyndebourne extras; but Francois Roussillon’s direction, giving a due flavour of the theatrical ambience, results in a model of filmed opera. David Nice