Edmonton Opera: “Falstaff”

When I purchased an Edmonton Opera Explorers’ Club membership last year, my intention was to use it to see Stewart Lemoine’s take on HMS Pinafore and nothing else. After thoroughly enjoying that operetta, to really maximize the membership fee, I thought it best to use my discount towards the last opera of the year, Verdi’s Falstaff.

From the website:

“Based on Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor, it tells the story of an aging-but-still-randy Sir John Falstaff, who is determined to mend his financial situation by seducing two noblewomen simultaneously. However, (as one would suspect), disastrous, convoluted and wildly funny results arise…. what a man won’t do for love and money!”

As I mentioned in my review of Pinafore, Falstaff was to function as a better litmus test for me determine whether or not I could enjoy opera. Turns out, not so much.

As Pinafore was in English, I didn’t have to rely on the supertitles. For the Italian Falstaff, they were indispensable, and though they helped disseminate the plot and outline the characters, it was exhausting having to dart back and forth from the projected words to the stage antics. As well, I found that I really wasn’t invested in any of the characters – a failing of this particular opera, I admit, and not necessarily true of all productions. But still, I couldn’t care less about the women’s revenge, or the B-plot involving the two young lovers.

To be honest, the most enjoyable part of the evening was the opening five minute video introduction of the 2008/2009 Edmonton Opera season, as presented by Artistic Director Brian Deedrick. He is one excitable man, and for an artform sometimes seen as archaic and irrelevant, I think someone so passionate is exactly the right person to lead the company. When he finally announced the names of each of the three (plus one) shows, Mack and I both could not believe the volume of the collective gasps and sighs emitted by the audience. As someone who would probably do the same upon hearing the new Teatro la Quindicina or Shadow Theatre seasons, I can put myself in an opera-lovers’ shoes, but on that night, I couldn’t help but laugh. If anything, it is good to know that the “opera community” is alive and well in Edmonton.

Would I go to the opera again? Perhaps, for a well-known knockout like La Boheme. Short of that, my opera days are done.

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