Opera Scotland

Falstaff 1993Welsh National Opera

Read more about the opera Falstaff

The 1993 Festival saw an interesting concentration on Verdi operas, getting under way with Scottish Opera's first attempt at an early, pre-Macbeth, work in I due Foscari. The company's new musical director, Richard Armstrong, also returned at the end of the Festival with his former company, Welsh National, and their superb production of the final masterpiece, Falstaff. Between these, the Festival gave a concert performance, very well cast, of the first surviving opera, Oberto.

A second theme at this Festival was an attempt to juxtapose the works of two masters, Schubert and Janáček. Opera was, inevitably, a difficult area in which to achieve this, but a fascinating concert evening was compiled in the Usher Hall, combining Schubert's unstageable (no surviving dialogue) Die Freunde von Salamanka with Janáček's first opera, Šárka.

Brian McMaster, during his years directing the Edinburgh Festival, brought Peter Stein productions to the city from Germany several times, and persuaded him to direct British actors from scratch as well (Troilus and Cressida, The Seagull). This fruitful relationship began during McMaster's years at Welsh National Opera, where Stein directed Otello, Falstaff and Pelléas, the Verdi conducted by Richard Armstrong, the Debussy by Pierre Boulez.

The lead baritone in all these was Perth-born Donald Maxwell, resident in Wales, and very rarely coming home for work purposes. Indeed this Falstaff is the only leading baritone role he sang in Scotland when his career was at its peak. It was a superb interpretation in every way, evoking comparisons with his great predecessors Tito Gobbi and Geraint Evans - and very different from the wonderfully acerbic interpretation of Sesto Bruscantini seen most recently.

The revival that came to Edinburgh had most of the original cast, the main novelty being the presence of young Bryn Terfel as Ford. This is the only operatic role he sang in Scotland. The company regulars included the Irish soprano Suzanne Murphy as Alice, in an elegant and beautifully pointed performance. Nuccia Focile and Paul Charles Clarke made an ideal pairing as Nannetta and Fenton.

Stein's staging was near to ideal, with period setting, three-dimensional characters, and plenty of subtle detail. The conductor, Richard Armstrong, was generally an excellent interpreter of Verdi, but less known for comedy. Here the two skills were ideally merged. It is a pity he didn't repeat the opera during his time as Scottish Opera's music director, which was just getting under way - but then, after such a good staging as this, any improvement would have been very difficult to find.

Performance Cast

Sir John Falstaff a knight

Donald Maxwell

Pistola Pistol, a follower of Falstaff

Geoffrey Moses

Bardolfo Bardolph, a follower of Falstaff

John Harris 1

Caius Dr Caius, a Frenchman

Peter Bronder

Meg Mistress Page

Wendy Verco

Alice Mistress Alice Ford, wife of Ford

Suzanne Murphy

Nannetta daughter of the Fords

Nuccia Focile

Quickly Mistress Quickly, a confidante of Alice and Meg

Claire Powell

Ford a merchant of Windsor

Bryn Terfel

Fenton a young gentleman

Paul Charles Clarke

Performance DatesFalstaff 1993

Map List

Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

2 Sep, 19.30 4 Sep, 19.30

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