From left

Terfel's brilliant Falstaff gives wings to Verdi

The San Francisco Opera’s new production of Verdi’s 1893 “Falstaff” advertises Bryn Terfel in the title role. Yet at Tuesday’s premiere, it wasn't Terfel onstage but Falstaff himself, in all his gross magnificence.

If anyone can bring charm and magnetism to Shakespeare's lecherous, imperious, self-deluded drunk, it is Terfel, whose spot-on portrayal, without a smidgen of overacting, represents a bonus, even, to his overwhelming vocal performance.

Given his voice, artistry and experience, Terfel would be a Falstaff for the ages even if he phoned it all in, but he did nothing of the sort. The massive and yet pliant voice, powerful and warm, soared all evening, filling the gigantic War Memorial Opera House as if it were a small studio.

Terfel has been singing the role since even before the 1999 Chicago premiere of this wonderful wooden-igloo production by Frank Philipp Schlössmann, which remains fresh and vibrant.

And when the fat man sings, it’s just the beginning. Terfel is surrounded by an outstanding cast: Ainhoa Arteta as Alice sparkles; Adler Fellow Renée Rapier as Meg is equally appealing, and Merola-Adler alumna Meredith Arwady as Dame Quickly channels Marilyn Horne.

The Nannetta-Fenton duo — Heidi Stober and Francesco Demuro — is musically affecting and romantically believable; his aria is lovely.

As Falstaff's lackeys and procurers Bardolfo and Pistola, Greg Fedderly and Andrea Silvestrelli have a romp, and Joel Sorensen as Dr. Caius is a hoot.

Fabio Capitanucci, as Ford, will get bigger and better; he seemed to hold back on opening night.

With Nicola Luisotti’s knowing and caring musical direction, the orchestra sparkles. Among many outstanding solos are Kevin Rivard’s horn call from the audience, Janet Popesco Archibald's English horn, Julie McKenzie's flute, Mingjia Liu’s oboe and Rufus Olivier's bassoon.

On the downside, something went slightly awry in the third act. While the opera chorus sang lustily, Luisotti and stage director Olivier Tambosi held back on what should be a wild free-for-all in Windsor Forest, meant to scare and punish Falstaff.

Nonetheless, the lack of a true musical-theatrical riot at the end remains a relatively small matter. This “Falstaff” and Falstaff should not be missed.

REVIEW

Falstaff

Presented by the San Francisco Opera

Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24 and Oct. 30, 2 p.m. Oct. 20 and Oct. 27

Tickets: $23 to $385

Contact: (415) 864-3330, www.sfopera.comartsBryn TerfelClassical Music & OperaFalstaffSan Francisco Opera

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Fare inspectors returning to Muni with new uniform, different approach

Absent thus far during the pandemic, Muni fare operators will be back… Continue reading

Limited indoor dining, church services to begin in SF

San Francisco will move ahead Wednesday with indoor dining and church services… Continue reading

Program busing homeless out of SF sees sharp decline

City to reopen in-person Homeward Bound office to boost participation

New law makes sustainable transit easier, faster and cheaper to implement

SB 288 will add a number of climate-friendly infrastructure projects to CEQA exemption list

Nearly 50,000 facing evacuations as fires besiege California wine country

By Luke Money, Anita Chabria, Rong-Gong Lin II and Hayley Smith Los… Continue reading

Most Read