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Va, vecchio Colin

05/23/2004 -  
Giuseppe Verdi: Falstaff
Michele Pertusi (Sir John Falstaff), Carlos Alvarez (Ford), Bülent Bendüz (Fenton), Alasdair Elliot (Dr Caius), Peter Hoare (Bardolfo), Darren Jeffrey (Pistola), Ana Ibarra (Alice Ford), Maria José Moreno (Nannetta), Jane Henschel (Mistress Quickly), Marina Domashenkov (Meg Page)

Colin Davis (conductor)

London Symphony Orchestra

Old guys (or any guys) who bother women are generally less than funny. But a couple of old guys turned the aging creep Falstaff into pure joy at the Barbican. The main genius was of course the octogenarian Verdi, who, after a long life writing opera that was quintessentially Italian in both style and subject, not only beat the upstart Wagner at his own symphonic game but also, with a bit of help from his supreme catalyst Boioto, transcended the perceived comic and dramatic perfection of Mozart and Da Ponte in a perfect balance of emotion, stagecraft and fun. But, however wonderfully organized it is, Verdi’s music does not perform itself, which is where the other old guy, Colin Davis (a mere septuagenarian) comes in. With the centenarian LSO on superb form and an impeccably chosen cast, he directed a concert performance full of both style and humanity. There was no need for huddles of conspirators, screens or veils to make it clear what was going on.

Michele Pertusi was a testosterone-laden Falstaff, definitely more interested in sex than money or generally making a nuisance of himself, but good-humored with it. His voice was velvety and ironically ecclesiastical in sound, and he was obviously far too young, but still very funny. Carlos Alvarez was an intense, equally mellifluous, Ford who brought out the musical echoes of Iago and thematic echoes of Othello in his role. The ladies were a glorious ensemble, well distinguished in character and vocal tone (bright Alice, fruity Meg, sweet Nannetta) and having a great time together. Jane Henschel was perhaps a touch solid as Quickly, and not noticeably earthier than the others. Bülent Bendüz was a dashing, sweet-toned Fenton who made luscious music with Maria José Moreno’s Nannetta. Alasdair Elliott, a pearl of a character tenor, was microscopically crusty as Dr Caius, and engaged in some fine knockabout music and business with Peter Hoare and Darren Jeffrey as Bardolfo and Pistola.

This was a performance to outdo even John Eliot Gardener’s magnificent Proms Falstaff of 1998. But then there’s a lot to be said for age and guile…

HE Elsom



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