Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)

Falstaff: Act 2, Scene 2

Falstaff was one of Solti’s specialties. His first exposure to Verdi’s final masterpiece came at the Salzburg Festival in 1936, when he served as rehearsal assistant to Arturo Toscanini. The work figured frequently and prominently in his repertory. He recorded Falstaff on three occasions, in Rome for RCA (1963), with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1979 (a Unitel film), and with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1993, the centenary of the opera’s premiere, on which occasion he also conducted the work at the Salzburg Festival in a production by Luca Ronconi. “The older I get, the more I love Falstaff, which is my favorite opera of all… I sometimes think of Verdi as Mozart’s pupil from the south, and Falstaff, in particular, should be played as if Mozart had written it” (Memoirs, 225). The passage shown is from the ensemble which ends the second act: Falstaff has taken refuge in a laundry basket, as the Merry Wives’ innocent charade has gone terribly awry; the two young lovers, Fenton and Nanetta, have concealed themselves behind a screen, oblivious to the activity surrounding them. Fenton (tenor) sings the principal melody, while layers of musical commentary swirl around him. Solti has indicated this with the words “Fenton cantus firmus” at the top of the page.

Giuseppe Verdi. Falstaff: Act 2, Scene 2 “Bella! Ridente!”. Alfredo Kraus (Fenton); Sir Geraint Evans (Falstaff); RCA Italiana Opera Orchestra & Chorus. Recorded at RCA Italiana Studios, Rome, 1963 (London 417 168-2). Record Collection CD 11468

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