Opera Scotland

Falstaff 2018Opera Bohemia

Read more about the opera Falstaff

Opera Bohemia, Scotland’s professional touring company, have never been short of ambition. The new production for 2018 is Verdi’s comic masterpiece Falstaff. Twelve performances across Scotland are sung in Italian with English surtitles and accompanied for some performances by The Opera Bohemia Ensemble, under the baton of Alistair Digges (Dumfries, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kirkcaldy, Lanark and Stirling) and for others by pianist Andrew Brown.

Full-scale performances have previously only been seen in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, so the production in the main tours to places where Verdi's final operatic masterwork has never been performed, though St Cuthbert's is a familiar venue for them during the Fringe. Scottish Opera have toured small and medium scale adaptations of many operas over the decades, but Falstaff has never featured in this repertoire, not least because of the number of essential solo roles required.

The performance in Dundee was in the middle of the run and gave an opportunity to try out the piano version. As so often happens at such events, any misgivings derived from inevitably missing the astonishing variety of Verdi's orchestrations were soon set aside due to the sheer enjoyment of the nimble-fingured accompaniment by Andrew Brown. Of course there were points where the orchestra was missed, but the piano really did work well, especially when extreme delicacy of touch and speed of articulation were required.

The staging by Adrian Osmond was generally successful, given in modern dress. There were several clever touches - Falstaff's arrival in Alice's chamber was by ladder, climbing to the window through which he would soon be ejected - with an offering of red flowers in his mouth. Caius, during the chaotic search, notices the ladder and pushes it away, unnoticed by the others. The scenes that worked least well were, firstly, the massed grouping as the wives start one conspiracy and the men another, with Fenton and Nannetta attempting to bridge the gap. The playing area was really too small. The second difficulty came with the final scene, when no attempt was made to darken the stage for the atmospheric midnight encounters.

Andrew McTaggart's career has developed in the few years since he left the Conservatoire in Glasgow, and he did remarkably well in projecting a larger than life role generally left to performers who are rather more mature. Surely he will be able to return to the part over the coming years and deepen his portrayal still further. Douglas Nairne's Ford was clearly projected and he did very well by his wonderful jealousy monologue. Falstaff's two henchmen, Bardolph and Pistol, were well sung and carefully differentiated.

The wives were outstanding. Alice is a peach of a role, with all those soaring phrases which Catriona Clark dealt with beautifully. Fiona Mackenzie and Susan Moore also did well with nicely differentiated characters and some fruity low notes from Quickly. Hazel McBain sang her fairy song 'Sul fil d'un soffio' quite beautifully, and generally made a lovely sweet-toned Nannetta. If Seumas Begg as Fenton did not quite match her it was simply because of a tendency to over-project. He created a sweet-natured character and had all the notes for the part, but could have used more melting tones, especially in his little aria in the forest.

In all, this was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, which clearly provided excellent entertainment for an audience that must have been largely unfamiliar with the opera. The Italian diction was generally excellent, and the surtitles accurate and well timed - not as easy as it sounds in such a rapid fire comedy.

Performance Cast

Sir John Falstaff a knight

Andrew McTaggart

Pistola Pistol, a follower of Falstaff

Jonathan Sedgwick

Bardolfo Bardolph, a follower of Falstaff

Kenneth Reid

Caius Dr Caius, a Frenchman

Christian Schneeberger

Meg Mistress Page

Fiona MacKenzie

Alice Mistress Alice Ford, wife of Ford

Catriona Clark

Nannetta daughter of the Fords

Hazel McBain

Quickly Mistress Quickly, a confidante of Alice and Meg

Susan Moore

Ford a merchant of Windsor

Douglas Nairne

Fenton a young gentleman

Seumas Begg

Performance DatesFalstaff 2018

Map List

Gaiety Theatre, Ayr | Ayr

11 Jul, 19.30

Strathpeffer Pavilion | Strathpeffer

12 Jul, 19.30

Town Hall, Lossiemouth | Lossiemouth

14 Jul, 19.30

Aberdeen Arts Centre | Aberdeen

15 Jul, 19.30

Theatre Royal, Dumfries | Dumfries

9 Aug, 19.30

Adam Smith Theatre | Kirkcaldy

14 Aug, 19.30

Whitehall Theatre | Dundee

16 Aug, 19.30

Memorial Hall, Lanark | Lanark

17 Aug, 19.30

St John's Renfield Church | Glasgow

19 Aug, 19.30

Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock | Greenock

21 Aug, 19.30

MacRobert Arts Centre | Stirling

23 Aug, 19.30

St Cuthbert's Parish Church, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

24 Aug, 19.30

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