Falstaff is Giuseppe’s Verdi’s last, sizzling “hurrah”; a mould-breaking “hurrah” at that. Almost eighty when he wrote it in 1893, Verdi surprisingly chose a comedy as the capstone of his triumphant career, only the second out of a repertoire of 28 works; the other being Un giorno di regno 1840.
Un giorno was not well received – understatement – and Rossini sniped that Verdi was incapable of writing comedic opera. Perhaps that got whatever passed for Verdi’s goat.
There are other departures from the maestro’s tried and tested formula in Falstaff. Gone are the stand alone arias, choruses and marches for which he had become famous, replaced by the seamless flow of melody uninterrupted by spoken dialogue he pioneered in his tragedy, Ottelo, 1887. Verdi was pointing towards the form opera would increasingly take in the coming 20th century.