Musically this 'Falstaff' probably passes muster -- barely. Ruggero Raimondi is frankly a bit long in the tooth for the part, it now being more than twenty-five years since he first sang the part. And he never had the low notes for the part, even back then. Barbara Frittoli is fine as Mistress Ford, and vocally Mariola Cantarero is a an equally fine Nannetta but she is a good deal more matronly than one would hope for a girl in the first bloom of love. Her lover Fenton, sung by Daniil Shtoda, is vocally acceptable but he is wooden as an actor and spends an awful lot of the time looking at the conductor. Laura Polverelli as Mistress Meg Page is OK but nothing special. The Mistress Quickly, Elena Zilio, simply doesn't have the chest voice for the part; her repeated 'Reverenza' just lies there gasping for breath. Manuel Lanza makes a good, if stolid, Ford. Bardolph (Gianluca Floris) and Pistola (Luigi Roni) are excellent vocally but they are hampered by their ludicrous costuming. Luca Ronconi, for whom most of the blame for this production must rest, had a really lame idea to set the opera in 1950s suburban England and his designer dressed Falstaff's followers as leather-jacketed punks. Red-nosed Bardolph sports an apache haircut, but Falstaff's nose is actually redder than his. Falstaff is made to look like an obese raggedy Andy and has some of the ugliest stage make-up I've ever seen. The ladies are dressed in floral polyester frocks (think Carol Burnett as Eunice) and two of them have Queen Mum hats. C'mon, what was the idea? What was wrong with setting the opera in its appropriate era? Did we really need punk fairies in Act III? And if the opera is to be set in England of fifty years ago, do you really expect us to believe that these middle-class suburban ladies would be mixing with the lowlife Bardolph and Pistol? Do you really expect us to believe that Falstaff lives in a hovel which can only be reached by climbing over barrels, taking care to avoid the rats? And that he would even ever meet Mistresses Page, Quickly and Ford?
Zubin Mehta in the pit has the measure of this complicated score, surely Verdi's most difficult orchestral effort, and his orchestra does him proud. In truth some of the ensemble singing, as in the Nonet in Act I, is wonderful. But this is not enough to save the production and I give it a vigorous thumbs down.