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Friday, February 19, 2010


Glyndebourne’s Falstaff a delight (Report by William Charlton-Perkins)

Riches abound with the delightfully quirky 1940’s take of Verdi’s mercurial last masterpiece, Falstaff, currently showing at the Westville Pavilion, and at select NuMetro cinemas in other centres. The work of a man nearing 80, with a string of masterworks such as La Traviata, Rigoletto, Aida, Otello and a host of others under his belt, this incredibly rich creation has astonished and delighted musicians, critics and opera lovers since its premiere in 1893. The new production from Glyndebourne was staged last June, directed by Richard Jones, designed by Ultz, and superbly conducted by Vladimir Jurowsky.

Its stellar ensemble cast is headed by the charismatic British baritone, Christopher Purves. Plausibly clad in a prosthetic fat suit, he makes a meal of the opera’s lusty, larger-than-life title role, the gloriously fertile recreation by Verdi and his librettist, Arrigo Boito, of Shakespeare’ endearing ‘Fat Knight’. Purves meets his match in this production’s comfortably plump and deliciously fruity Mistress Quickly, performed here with twinkling relish by the French contralto, Marie-Nicole Lemieux. She is only singer in the cast I’d previously encountered, in a number of recordings of Vivaldi operas. A far cry from late Verdi.

Equally feisty are the production’s well contrasted merry wives, Alice Ford and Meg Page. These are portrayed with evident delight by soprano Dina Kuznetsova and mezzo Jennifer Holloway respectively. Baritone Tassis Christoyannis offers up an appropriately combustible Ford, his haughty portrayal a recognizable descendent of Mozart’s Count Almaviva.

Adriana Kucerová’s sweet-toned, physically alluring Nanetta and Bülent Bezdüz’s equally personable, ardent young Fenton constitute ideal casting. They make the most of their idyllic love rhapsodies. Verdi’s gossamer fairy music in the celebrated forest scene is exquisitely rendered under Jurowsky’s mesmerizing baton. Equally fine is the miraculous fugal finale, which builds with sure precision to a triumphant final curtain, provoking a torrent of applause. A treat from first to last, this one’s not to be missed.

On our live music front in Durban, a note that the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra’s six-concert World Symphony Series Summer Season runs in the Durban City Hall every Thursday at 19h30, from February 11 until March 18.

The season offers a mix of well-known works by Mozart, Brahms, Frank, Beethoven, Frank, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich and Gounod, all musically rewarding fare. Less familiar works such as Takemisu’s Riverrun and Miaskovsky’s Cello Concerto add special interest to the programme. Guest conductors featured on the podium this season are Thomas Sanderling, Yuso Shinozaki and Omri Hadari. Soloists include pianists Noriko Ogawa and Konstantin Soukhovetski; violinists Daniel Hope and Benjamin Schmidt, with cellists the celebrated Julian Lloyd Webber and our resident Boris Kerimov. For full programme details, call 031-369 9440 or log onto the orchestra’s glamorous new-look website at - William Charlton-Perkins