by Steven Keely
Opera Idaho’s first of the season's offerings, Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi, was performed at the Egyptian Theatre Oct. 26 with Peter Castaldi in his Opera Idaho debut as Falstaff, local baritone Jason Detwiler as Ford, Leslie Mauldin as Alice, Tiffany Calas as Meg, Ben Bunsold as Fenton and Elizabeth Ashantiva making her professional debut as Nannetta.
The Falstaff story, based on William Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, tells of a fortuneless, sorry excuse for a knight and his devious plans to seduce two married women for their husbands' money. For those looking for a proper historical sequence, the action of Merry Wives takes place between Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 2, and Henry V.
Verdi’s three-act opera focuses on the wives' resourceful, humiliating revenge on the self-obsessed, self-centered and obese Falstaff. The libretto, written by Arrigo Boito, was based on an Italian translation of a French translation of the English original.
Though it means arriving an hour early for the performance, there is an informal introduction to the origins of comedic opera, examples of the genre and details on the life of Verdi and his contemporaries, given by Opera Idaho’s executive director, Mark Junkert.
Conductor Steve Crawford and Junkert both made special reference to the performing demands made on the singing cast and the orchestra. Falstaff was Verdi’s last opera and only his second comedy—yet this work is not easy for any of the vocal or instrumental performers. It retains all the complexity of a Verdi opera.
Friday evening’s audience included a mix of young and old patrons in formal and informal dress. With broad smiles and laughter, they gave strong applause between acts.
You can see the final performance today, Sunday, Oct. 28, at 2:30 p.m. at the Egyptian Theatre at 700 Main St. Consider arriving an hour early for Junkert’s introduction.