Sir John Falstaff has met his match in this crown jewel of Italian comic opera! When the merry wives of Windsor discover Falstaff’s plan to seduce them, they concoct a scheme to teach him a lesson he’ll never forget. Add a jealous husband, an array of disguises, and a pair of young lovers into the mix, and you get an exhilarating comedy of Shakespearean scope. Verdi’s final opera is a true celebration of life and laughter.
by Giuseppe Verdi
Saturday, August 21, 1:00pm
Tuesday, August 24, 7:30pm
Friday, August 27, 7:30pm
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center
Great Barrington, MA
Tickets On Sale In 2021
Approximate running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes including one intermission
Sung in Italian with projected English translations
The Creative Team
Hair and Make-up
Assistant Conductor and
Principal Coach and
Chorus Rehearsal Pianist
Production Stage Manager
Falstaff has a libretto by Arrigo Boito, based on William Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2.
The action takes place in Windsor during the reign of Henry IV.
Sir John Falstaff is dining at the Garter Inn. Dr. Caius bursts in and accuses Falstaff of having broken into his house and beaten his servants. He further accuses Falstaff’s two henchmen, Bardolfo and Pistola, of having gotten him drunk and robbing him. Falstaff, with mock solemnity, makes the decision that Caius’s case is unfounded. Caius leaves in a huff. Falstaff tells Bardolfo and Pistola that he intends to repair his poor finances by seducing Alice Ford and Meg Page, two wives of wealthy Windsor residents. He orders the henchmen to bring love letters to the two women, but they refuse, saying it’s against their honor. Falstaff gives the letters to a page and mocks Bardolfo and Pistola about their newfound "honor" before throwing them out (L’onore! Ladri!).
The letters have arrived at Ford’s house, and Meg and Alice discover that the letters are identical except for the names. Mrs. Quickly and Alice's daughter Nannetta join them in a plan to trick Falstaff. Ford arrives with Bardolfo, Pistola, Dr. Caius, and Fenton. They besiege Ford with the tale of Falstaff’s plan to seduce his wife. Ford vows to keep careful watch. Meanwhile, Nannetta (whose father wants her to marry the elderly Dr. Caius) steals a few moments with her true love, Fenton, to exchange kisses (Duet: Labbra di foco). The wives have perfected their plan, and Mrs. Quickly has agreed to be the messenger in arranging a rendezvous between Alice and Falstaff. Ford has devised his own plan and decides to visit Falstaff under an assumed name.
Bardolfo and Pistola rejoin Falstaff's service at the Garter Inn, pretending to be contrite. They present Mrs. Quickly, who delivers messages from both Alice and Meg (Duet: Reverenza!). Alice sends word that her husband is out each afternoon from 2:00 until 3:00. Meg, however, sends word that her husband is almost never away. Falstaff assures Quickly that the young women will not be disappointed, and she leaves. Ford arrives, and is introduced under the name “Fontana.” He asks Falstaff’s help in his seduction of Alice, and gives him a bag of gold as encouragement (Duet: C’è a Windsor una dama). Falstaff says that he himself has an appointment with Mrs. Ford within the hour and will arrange everything. He hurries off to get ready, while Ford remains behind to denounce the faithlessness of women (È sogno? O realtà?). Falstaff returns, dressed in his finest clothing, and the men leave after exchanging compliments.
Back at Ford's house, the wives are ready for Falstaff (Trio: Gaie comare di Windsor). Falstaff arrives and begins his courtship of Alice, boasting of his aristocratic youth as page to the Duke of Norfolk (Quand’ero paggio). Meg soon interrupts, as planned, and says that Ford is coming home. Falstaff hides behind a screen and watches Ford storm in with Dr. Caius, Bardolfo, and Pistola. When the men scatter to search the house, the women squeeze Falstaff into a basket of dirty laundry. Ford returns and hears the loud smack of a kiss from behind a screen (Ensemble: Se t’agguanto!). Furious, he knocks down the screen, only to discover his daughter and Fenton, whom he has forbidden her to see. When the men leave again, Alice summons the servants and orders them to dump the laundry out the window into the River Thames.
Falstaff is back at the Garter Inn, wet and weary after his experience at Ford’s house (Ehi! Taverniere!). Mrs. Quickly arrives with a letter from Alice, suggesting a midnight rendezvous, and Falstaff falls into the trap. He is to go to Windsor Park, disguised as the Black Huntsman, and wait for Alice at Herne’s Oak. Alice, Nannetta, Meg, and Ford enter to discuss the details of their new prank against Falstaff. Ford also promises Dr. Caius that, when the fun is over, he can marry Nannetta.
Fenton arrives at Herne’s Oak (Dal labbro il canto), and is reunited with Nannetta, who is disguised as the Fairy Queen. The young lovers leave as the clock strikes twelve and Falstaff enters to meet Alice. Falstaff begins his seduction, but is interrupted by Meg, who cries that the fairies are coming. Falstaff falls to the ground in terror and hides his face, since to see the fairies means death. Nannetta summons her followers, disguised as fairies, goblins, and witches (Sul fil d’un soffio etesio). They attack Falstaff, pinching and poking him until he promises to change his ways (Chorus: Ruzzola, ruzzola!). In the midst of the attack, Falstaff realizes he’s been tricked. Nannetta and Fenton have changed some disguises, and Bardolfo is now dressed as the Fairy Queen, entering with Dr. Caius. Nannetta, now disguised as a nymph, enters with Fenton, who is masked. Ford unites the two couples in marriage and all unmask. To the horror of Caius, he is now married to Bardolfo. With everyone laughing at Ford’s expense, he has no choice but to forgive Nannetta and Fenton and bless their union. All agree that the whole world is a joke, but he who laughs last, laughs best (Fugue: Tutto nel mondo è burla).