WNO, Birmingham Hippodrome
Peter Stein's production of Falstaff is now twenty years old but there was nothing dated about this latest revival. Bryn Terfel was at his finest in the title role, every nuance and inflection exquisitely found and the voice perfectly placed throughout. Yet this was certainly not a one man show. If anything the rest of the cast equal his splendid lead with Christopher Purves' sensitive Ford (and it will be fascinating to see him move into the title role at Glyndebourne) and Janice Watson's witty Alice at the heart of the narrative.
Around them Neil Jenkins and Julian Close provide the low life without any sense of caricature, and Claire Ormshaw and Rhys Meirion are an appealing pair of lovers.
Stein's production has lost none of its fizz and comic delight over the years, nor its acceptance of the darker side of jealousy which Verdi allows us to take seriously despite the happy ending.
Michal Klauza had taken over from Carlo Rizzi in the pit and guided the orchestra with aplomb. Balance between stage and pit was excellent with the text clearly audible throughout.
The only minor problem in an otherwise highly memorable evening was the lengthy wait between scenes, a result, I understand, of a rebuild to the set which had had little time to settle in. A pity when everything else worked so well.
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