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Falstaff and Yevgeny Onegin: Opera Holland Park
As with Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate, Verdi’s farewell gift to the world in the shape of his ebullient last opera Falstaff is a marked improvement on its Shakespearean original. This is chiefly
because the Sir John of The Merry Wives of Windsor — the source of the story — also possesses, courtesy of Arrigo Boito’s libretto, something of the dignity of the Fat Knight as he is depicted in
the Henry IV plays.
A warm glow of enjoyment always hangs around a successful production of the work, such as the one supplied by Opera Holland Park at the close of its 2012 season in a setting updated (director Annilese Miskimmon) to the 1920s with a chorus of parsons, soldiers, nurses and cricketers. Icelandic baritone Olafur Sigurdarson, an OHP favourite, delights with his impeccably sung and surprisingly athletic — see that somersault! — account of the title role. There is strong support from George von Bergen, as Ford, who is transformed here into a vicar, a change as surprising as that of Carole Wilson’s Mistress Quickly into a nun. Holland Park debutante Rhona McKail is in shining form as the Ford daughter Nanetta whose ardent admirer Fenton is winningly portrayed by former New College choral scholar Benjamin Hulett. It’s a production (conductor Peter Robinson) well worth seeing, for laughter and lovely music.
There is still time, too, to catch OHP’s take on Tchaikovsky’s Yevgeny Onegin, with action shifted to span the Russian Revolution. Mark Stone excels as the restless ‘hero’, with the sweet-voiced Anna Leese a near-perfect Tatiana. I hummed her ‘Letter’ aria all the way home.
There are further performances of Yevgeny Onegin on Tuesday, Thursday, and next Saturday, and of Falstaff tonight, Saturday, Wednesday and next Friday. 0300 999 1000 (operahollandpark.com).