Opera SJ’s Falstaff brings laughs from the belly of a wine barrel

Cast 1: Baritone Steven Condy as Falstaff. Photo by Pat Kirk.

Opera season has begun, and Opera San Jose was kind enough to invite the Opera Novice to opening night of  Verdi’s Falstaff, an uproarious comedy that is fun for all ages.

Let’s start by going over the rules of Opera Novice reviews:

1. The Opera Novice, after years of attending opera, still has no technical knowledge of opera and therefore has no real business “reviewing” the opera.

2. Therefore the Opera Novice reviews opera from a layperson’s perspective, i.e. will an opera newbie like this show.  I want to give the average person who has never attended an opera, or who thinks they might like to try one, an idea of whether this would be a good show on which to spend money.

3. I assume that those who love opera and are more knowledgeable than I about it are already attending, and if you are not, DO SO.

OK, let’s get to it.  Right off the bat I’m going to say that Falstaff is an opera that is accessible to the masses, and even fit for the entire family.  Nothing makes me happier than to see kids at the opera who are really enjoying themselves.  At one of the intermissions I heard a father ask a boy of about 8 years if he liked the show. “I LOVE it!!!” he exclaimed, bouncing up and down.  There was a girl of about nine sitting behind me who was just having a ball giggling through the whole show.

Cast A: Soprano Jennifer Forni as Alice Ford and baritone Scott Bearden as Falstaff. Photo by Pat Kirk.

Falstaff (a beloved character from several Shakespeare plays) is a jolly drunken fool who believes his massive belly is the source of everything good in his life.  Yes, he thinks highly of himself.  He hatches a plot to woo two rich married women, thinking he will be able to charm them both out of some money.  Unfortunately, the women meet up and share their identical love letters.  They then hatch their own plot to teach poor Falstaff a lesson.

Falstaff is such an over the top clown that no matter what awful thing happens to him, the audience laughs and laughs and laughs.  Whatever your mood when you enter the beautiful California Theatre, you will be smiling and happy when you leave after this show.

The set design is framed inside of a wine barrel which is simple, gorgeous, and frankly GENIUS.  Hair, make-up and costumes are splendid (especially Falstaff’s fancy outfit he wears for his “date”).  Music and singing are, as always, Perfection.

In short, it is the best kind of opera for someone looking to try their first, and judging from the smiles on everyone’s faces, it is just as perfect for the seasoned opera attendee.


Cast 1: Soprano Sarah Duchovnay as Nannetta, Soprano Rebekah Camm as Alice Ford, mezzo-soprano Buffy Baggott as Meg Page and mezzo-soprano Patrice Houston as Dame Quickly.

Through September 22
Opera San Jose
California Theatre

Coming up:

Hansel & Gretel:  November 16 – December 1
Madama Butterfly:  February 15 – March 2
Don Giovanni:  April 19 – May 4

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