Salieri Falstaff

A stylish, spirited live performance that showcases the lighter side of Salieri

Record and Artist Details

Composer or Director: Antonio Salieri

Genre:

Opera

Label: Dynamic

Media Format: CD or Download

Media Runtime: 155

Mastering:

Stereo
DDD

Catalogue Number: CDS405/1-2

Tracks:

Composition Artist Credit
Falstaff Antonio Salieri, Composer
(La) Grande Ecurie et La Chambre du Roy
(Les) Chantres de la Chapelle de Versailles
Antonio Salieri, Composer
Hjördis Thébault, Mistress Slender, Soprano
Jean-Claude Malgoire, Conductor
Liliana Faraon, Betty, Soprano
Nigel Smith, Master Slender, Bass
Pierre-Yves Pruvot, Sir John Falstaff, Baritone
Raimonds Spogis, Bardolf, Bass
Salomé Haller, Mistress Ford, Soprano
Simon Edwards, Master Ford, Tenor
Falstaff, ossia I tre burle (‘Falstaff, or the three pranks’) is the full title: one more prank, then, than Verdi. The extra one comes in the middle when Falstaff goes back to the attack and, in disguise, gets a whacking from the irate Ford between his ducking andhis pinching. There is no Nanetta or Fenton: the love interest resides in the Fords themselves, seemingly more youthful than Verdi’s.

Salieri, now chiefly admired for his serious operas – Gluck saw him as his true successor – was even more prolific as a buffo composer. And he did have a light touch: listen to the frolicsome little Overture here, with its perky solos for flute, oboe and bassoon, or to the neat way, time and again, he catches the sense of the words. But in that he is, in a sense, his ownworst enemy, for the music, fluent, tuneful, lightly scored, is apt to become a commentary,if a very deft one, on the words, and never to acquire much real life of its own.

The individual numbers are often very brief, nearly always too brief for the music to take over and command the listener’s attention and emotions, as it repeatedly does in Mozart’s operas. Even Ford’s violent jealous outbursts are diminished by their brevity. But there are plenty of amusing and charming things – Bardolf’s sleep song, the little duet ‘La stessa, la stessissima’ (on which Beethoven wrote variations) when the ladies are comparing their love letters, Falstaff’s boastful song with trumpets as he proclaimshis amorous prowess, Slender’s envisaging ofhis wife’s repulsing Falstaff’s advances, themock love duets for Mrs Ford and Falstaff,her provocatively heartfelt pleas to her enraged husband not to search the laundry basket,and the tender reconciliation of the Fords before the second finale.

The opera, written for Vienna in 1799, was recorded by Hungaroton in the 1980s, but this version has altogether more style and spirit, with period instruments adding clarity to the textures. The recording is live and there is occasional (rather arbitrary) applause, as well as some stage noise and a few instances of smudgy ensemble. But Jean-Claude Malgoire directs aptly enough, and paces the opera effectively. The engineers, too eager to maintain continuity, have regrettably removed some of the gaps needed at scene changes.

There are no weaknesses in the cast: Pierre-Yves Pruvot supplies the necessary amour propre for ‘Sir Falstaff’, along with some lively buffo singing, Salomé Haller brings both wit and a touch of tenderness to Mrs Ford’s music, and Simon Edwards characterises Ford quite neatly, although it isn’t very imaginatively sung. The Slenders (‘Pages’ to Verdi) are both well drawn, Raimonds Spogis provides a Leporello-like Bardolf and Liliana Faraon a sharp Betty (or ‘Belly’, as the libretto once calls her). All quite slight, but amusing and agreeable.

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