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Falstaff (opera)

Falstaff is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi, adapted by Arrigo Boito from Shakespeare's play The Merry Wives of Windsor. It was Verdi's last opera, written at an advanced age, and is noted for its concluding fugue, "Tutto nel mondo burla" ("All the world's a joke").


ACT I. A room at the Garter Inn. Falstaff is surrounded by his friends Bardolph, Pistol and the innkeeper, when Dr. Caius arrives and insults him, but the excited doctor is soon ejected. Falstaff hands a letter to his serva nts and another to the page, for delivery to Mistress Ford and to Mistress Page, and then angrily dismisses them. Change of scene: Ford's garden. Alice and Meg have received the letters of Falstaff, both of like contents. They exchange them, and in conjunction with Mistress Quickly resolve to punish the knight. Not only the women, but the men, Ford, Fenton, Dr. Caius, and Bardolph and Pistol, who have been maltreated by their master, are athirst for vengeance. A love duet between Fenton and Nanette follows; the women return home and through Mistress Quickly invite Falstaff to an interview. The men also arrive upon the scene, and Bardolph and Pistol are persuaded to introduce Ford to Falstaff under an assumed name.

ACT II. Same room as in Act I. Bardolph and Pistol announce to their master the arrival of Dame Quickly, who delivers the invitation. Ford is now introduced as Signor Fortuna, who offers money to the fat knight to intercede for him with Mistress Ford. Falstaff agrees with pleasure, and while he is absent, attiring himself in splendid array, Ford is consumed with jealousy. Change of scene: A room in Ford's house. Mistress Quickly announces the coming of Falstaff and Mistress Ford has a large wash basket placed in readiness. When Falstaff arrives, Mistress Quickly reports the arrival of Mistress Page, and the knight is compelled to conceal himself behind a screen. When the angry Ford with his friends appear to capture Falstaff, the latter hides in the clothes basket. In the meanwhile, a love scene between Fenton and Nanette takes place behind the screen, and the men returning, hear the sound of a kiss; they think to entrap Falstaff, but find Fenton, who is ordered to leave the room by Ford. When the men again proceed with the search, the women order the wash basket to be thrown into the ditch, where Falstaff is compelled to endure the jeers of the crowd.

ACT III. Before the inn. Falstaff again receives an invitation through Dame Quickly, which is overheard by the men. After Falstaff has promised to go to Herne's Oak, the place of meeting, he enters the house with Dame Quickly, and the men concoct a plan for his punishment. Dr. Caius is promised the hand of Nanette, and is also to appear disguised as Nanette at the appointed place. The plot is overheard by Dame Quickly. Change of scene: At Herne's Oak in Windsor Park. A moonlight night. The women disguise Fenton as a monk, and arrange that he shall spoil the plans of Dr. Caius. Falstaff's love scene with Mistress Ford is interrupted by the announcement that the Wild Huntsman is approaching, and the men disguised as elves and fairies thrash Falstaff soundly. When their vengeance is satisfied, Dr. Caius finds that he has captured Bardolph instead of Nanette in the garb of a fairy queen, but Fenton and Nanette, with the consent of Ford, are joined in wedlock.

References and external links: Plot taken from The Opera Goer's Complete Guide by Leo Melitz, 1921 version.

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