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  • Writer's pictureFrances

Opera North's Falstaff Review | The Lowry | Manchester

Opera North is turning the tables on the Lowry audience with an outwitting opera filled with frivolity, passion and cheek. Based on the Shakespeare comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor’s larger-than-life character Falstaff, this charming production infuses the timeless tale of misadventures into Opera North’s Green Season, which packages the production as sustainably as possible.   

Falstaff’s (Henry Waddington) immense appetite for food and love sees him spending much of his days withering away his money and chasing swarms of women who can bolster his depleted bank account. After sending out identical love letters to friends Alice (Kate Royal) and Meg (Helen Évora), the two girlfriends compare notes and realise that their suitor is a stone-cold player. Deciding that the best revenge is revenge, the ladies plot to get their own back on the Lothario.  


Despite Verdi’s nearly sixty-year career and extensive catalogue of work, Falstaff is his most successful comedy and his final opera. Due to the eccentric Shakespearian character that grounds the vivid farce, the show's complex storytelling gives audiences a detailed variety of dramatic musical moods and styles. Unexpected riffs punctuated by the live orchestration keep the Lowry audience in a playful frame of mind and immediately draws you into the world of Falstaff. The music layers the story around the braggadocios main character and is enhanced by Waddington’s expressive performance and impeccable comedic timing that help build a character you can't help but root for, despite his numerous flaws. 


Whilst Falstaff believes the world revolves around him, his enemies plan to expose him quickly hooks in Alice's suspicious husband Ford (Richard Burkhard) who is concerned by the rumours of his wife having an affair with the overweight pauper. On the other side of the comedy is Fenton and Nannetta’s love story that balances the humour and heart of the comedy. The commanding ensemble cast helps escalate the plot twists throughout the three acts, with Opera North’s impeccable vocalists powering the fast-paced production. You can expect rapid-fire lyrics, entertaining dialogue and memorable scenes from the women who run rings around Falstaff in powerful duets and shady gossip sessions.  


Opera North’s production brings passion and tradition as Falstaff’s irresistible blend of rom-com, tricks and imposing music tangles the Lowry audience in a tale of one-upmanship. The pacing of the show makes it one of the easiest operas for newbie goers to follow as its descriptive lyrics and over-the-top characters are hilariously shallow. Whilst Falstaff lives in a dilapidated trailer wearing an ill-fitting dirty vest, every other character gives the appearance that money pours from their immaculately styled pores. Alongside Olivia Fuchs direction, which brings a grand atmosphere and colour to the stage, Falstaff's humiliating get back is contrasted by Gabrielle Dalton’s strikingly lavish costume design that frames all the ladies as meticulous Material Girls.  


Full of personality and pep, audiences are guaranteed to be drawn into the emotion and lightness of Opera North’s loveable, reworked classic. 

Tickets are available via the Lowry link


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