Sunday, 6 November 2011

Falstaff

WRITTEN BY: Giuseppe Verdi
DIRECTED BY: Julie Edwardson
CONDUCTED BY: Simon Hewett
STARRING: James Clayton, Sally-Anne Russell, Katja Webb, Elisa Wilson, Samuel Sakker
RATING: 3.5 stars

There's nothing quite like a night at the opera. Perhaps because unlike films, the opera rarely disappoints. You can't really go wrong performing a classic like Falstaff, an Italian opera with English surtitles. Falstaff is Giuseppe Verdi's final masterpiece, a three-act comedy inspired by a combination of William Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV. The opera was completed in 1892 and given its first performance at Milan's La Scala on February 9, 1893. The West Australian Opera's production of this classic is nothing short of excellent.

The plot centres around Sir John Falstaff (James Clayton) who attempts to woo two married women - Alice Ford (Elisa Wilson) and Meg Page (Sarah-Janet Brittenden) - who quickly learn about his plans and work together with Mistress Quickly (Sally-Anne Russell) to trap the knight and teach him a lesson. Mrs Ford must also try to deal with her very jealous husband. Meanwhile, the Fords' daughter Nannetta (Katja Webb), who has been promised to Dr Caius (Bernard Hull), longs to be with Fenton (Samuel Sakker) and the two plot to find a way to be together.

I can't praise Clayton enough for his performance as Falstaff. Anyone who can play such a fat, shallow, self-centred, arrogant, old man and still be likeable deserves praise. His comedic timing, facial expressions and hilarious body language bring the entire production to life. Clayton dedicated his performance to his mother, who passed away last weekend, and it felt like he put more effort in it for her.

The rest of the cast were also vocally impressive. Kudos to Iain Aitken and Tracy Grant Lord for the set design and costumes too, which were fantastic. The lighting also assisted in creating the colourful scenes and lighting designer Nick Schlieper has done a great job. Falstaff is a funny look at life, love and the ridiculousness of it all.

Falstaff is on at His Majesty's Theatre on November 8, 10 and 12.


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