Review by Willard Manus
To celebrate the bi-centennial of Giuseppe Verdi's birth, Los Angeles
Opera recently mounted a new production of FALSTAFF, the composer's last
and only comic opera. Directed by Lee Blakeley and conducted by James
Conlon, this homegrown FALSTAFF featured baritone Roberto Frontali as
the rotund and roguish Sir John. Frontali sang and acted the role with
strength, vigor and zest, making Falstaff not just a figure of fun but
a complex and likable human being.
The style of the production was broad and brash, with lots of comic shtick,
but this was balanced by the overwhelming beauty of the score. Filled
with youth and vitality, the music was like a swift-flowing stream, a
force of life, with Verdi getting in some digs against some of his favorite
targets: the church, authority in general, and operatic cliches (including
some of his own).
Just about everyone in the ten-person cast had a gorgeous aria to deliver
(mostly about the complications of love) and they all got together in
the finale to take part in a rousing fugue (Verdi's first) whose message
was, "All the world's a jest, but he who laughs last laughs best."
Next up at LA Opera is Benjamin Britten's BILLY BUDD, which will be presented
at the Music Center, February 22-March 16. Call 213-972-8001 or visit