FALSTAFF by Giuseppe Verdi, directed by Colin Graham, conducted by Richard Bradshaw, with Pavlo Hunka, Wendy Nielsen, Judit Németh, Jane Henschel, Elena Voznessenskaia, Franco Pomponi and Riccardo Botta. Presented by the Canadian Opera Company at the Hummingbird Centre (1 Front East). January 30, February 4 and 7 at 7:30 pm. $35-$145, limited $20-$25 (ages 18 to 29). 416-872-2262. Rating: NN Rating: NNNNN
Falstaff, Verdi's last opera, is as much about characterization as it is about music. And while the singing in this Canadian Opera Company production is good enough, its theatricality is rarely more than sketchy. In this comedy about misplaced lust and jealousy (it's based largely on Shakespeare's The Merry Wives Of Windsor), the self-impressed title character woos two women simultaneously and arouses the foolish suspicion of one's husband. By the final curtain, the men get their comeuppance from the women and a young couple is happily wed.
Too bad director Colin Graham 's production forces most of the fun. Pavlo Hunka 's Falstaff is sonorous of voice but bland of personality, and the same two-dimensionality affects most of the other cast members. The exceptions are Jane Henschel 's fun-loving, duplicitous Mistress Quickly and Elena Voznessenskaia 's animated Nannetta, who takes the evening's vocal honours.
Verdi's ensemble writing for principals and chorus is splendid, but at the opening performance the group work was ragged until the final act. Hope it's settled in by now, for there's much to admire in the intricately woven score.