While "all the world's a joke", the Cleveland Orchestra and Falstaff are world-class

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Thu, 06/08/2006 - 23:11.

 Always world-class, today the Cleveland Orchestra presented a unique performance of Giuseppi Verdi's comic opera Falstaff that in many ways was the finest artistic achievement I can recall ever experiencing. For the packed house, at this much anticipated final program of the symphony season, the orchestra filled the accoustically and visually astounding Severance Hall with their usual musical perfection, today combined with a full cast of world-renowned operatic stars. The result was transformational.

The opera was not staged but blended with the orchestra... the orchestra sat in front of the stage, and the singers performed at the back of the stage, with wonderful visual energy by all performers, much enhanced through costuming by the Cleveland Museum of Art's Robin VanLear, who stages Parade the Circle each year (coming up June 10). The superior accoustics of Severance Hall, the perfection of the operatic performers, the power of the Cleveland Orchestra and the story of Falstaff made this performance an experience very different from the excellent efforts of Cleveland Opera, which I also support.

Beyond theartistic glory of this achievement the story Falstaff - interpreting from  Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor and As You Like It - is timely as an exploration of greed, gluttony and confusion in man, viewed in the comic context of a fat, bald, spent, scrupleless knight and his community. Ultimately, there is not good or bad in one or all of man but the realization we are all jesters in a grand comedy of life. In the end, Falstaff, is pleased to find himself not the only dupe, proclaiming in a fugue that the whole world is a joke (Tutto nel mondo è burla)... which is an interpretation of "All the world's a stage", from Shakespeare's As You Like It. This would seem Verdi's thanks and goodbye to the 19th Century and world, as this was Verdi's last opera before he died. While the realities of life in modern days are far from comic, one realizes through Verdi's interpretation of man in 1893 Italy, reflecting Shakespeare's interpretation of man in 1601 England, that man hasn't changed in all that time.

I tried to find for you an MP3 download of Tutto nel mondo è burla but the music industry and google and such have so corrupted the internet that the only free MP3 I could find of this fugue was on an Italian site that was not working - if anyone can find a link, please post as a comment.

From what is available on-line, showing the beauty of Verdi at his best, consider these moving lyrics from Nabucco's "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves", the tender lament of captives in Babylonia -  it begins:

 

Fly, thought, on wings of gold;
go settle upon the slopes and the hills
where the sweet airs of our
native soil smell soft and mild!
...Oh, my country, so lovely and lost!
Oh remembrance so dear yet unhappy!

 Full lyrics can be found here: [1] and a recording here: [2]

 

Showing opera and the internet at its best, from Rigolleto, visit with the great Enrico Caruso, from 1908... one of the coolest things you'll ever hear.

Further showing the beauty of the Internet at its best, take a few minutes to listen to a few turn of the 20th century Verdi Opera downloads from old Edison Cylinder recordings at Verdi cylinder recordings, from the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara Library.

 Thanks to the Cleveland Orchestra for bring this wonderful, innovative and creative performance of Falstaff to NEO. NEO Knows you are the best in the world! There is a second performance this Sunday, and tickets are apparently still available (although today looked like a sell-out... I was in the second to last row and still heard and saw everything great (little hot up there, though).

A reason to support grand opera in Cleveland

Now, over 100 years after Falstaff's debut at La Scala, this Opera is still as relevant as it was  when Verdi wrote it -- as was the Shakespeare play he based it on in the late 19th-century. It always amazes me the power great art has to appeal to and reach each generation of humanity. Written for an entirely different time and place, Falstaff was still able to touch upon issues Clevelanders can relate to.