Falstaff (opera)

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Falstaff is an operatic commedia lirica in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi, adapted by Arrigo Boito from Shakespeare's plays The Merry Wives of Windsor and scenes from Henry IV. It was Verdi's last opera, written in the composer's ninth decade, and only the second of his 26 operas to be a comedy. It was also the third of Verdi's operas to be based on a Shakespearean play, following his earlier Macbeth and Otello. (Verdi had toyed, too, with writing an opera based on King Lear and Arrigo Boito later tried to interest him in Antony and Cleopatra,[1] but neither project was ever brought to fruition.)

While it has not proved to be as immensely popular as the Verdi works that immediately preceded it, namely Aida and Otello, Falstaff has long been an admired favorite with critics and musicians because of its brilliant orchestration, scintillating libretto and refined melodic invention. It is in the standard repertoire of many opera companies.

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Performance history

The first performance of Falstaff took place on 9 February 1893 at La Scala, Milan to great success. The illustrious French baritone Victor Maurel, who had created the role of Iago in Verdi's previous opera, Otello, sang Falstaff at the premiere.

The first performance abroad was in Vienna, on 21 May 1893.[2] Hamburg first saw Falstaff on 2 January 1894, conducted by Gustav Mahler.[3] In the UK, the opera was first presented at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on 19 May 1894 with Arturo Pessina in the title role, while the US premiere was at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, on 4 February 1895 with Victor Maurel as Falstaff.[2][4][5] The opera is still frequently performed throughout the world.

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