Finally! After missing the Muti-led CSO performances of Verdi’s Otello and Macbeth a couple of years ago, I got to hear the full concert performance of Verdi’s Falstaff! I don’t think there was a better place to be than in sitting in Symphony Center last night, witnessing the world’s greatest conductor of Verdi lead the world’s best orchestra and the world’s best Falstaff singer in Verdi’s masterpiece. Falstaff is different from the rest of his other works, mainly in that it is a through-composed piece (there are no big arias and no overture). Nonetheless, the interplay between Boito’s intricate and witty libretto with Verdi’s complex orchestration (with the famous fugue at the end), was brilliantly controlled and crafted by Maestro Muti’s conducting, leading to a electrifying performance by the entire orchestra, chorus, and soloists.
Everything was perfect, which was the result of a incredibly thorough rehearsal process led by Maestro Muti. I happened to be sitting right in the front row on the right side, so I could clearly see how Maestro Muti communicated with the singers throughout the concert, which was a very cool thing to witness. There was one memorable moment in the opera when Maestro Muti and Ambrogio Maestri (in the title role of Falstaff) were practically singing right to each other – and the audience loved it. Maestri was definitely the star singer of the night, but every single soloist (Luca Salsi as Ford, Eleonora Buratto as Alice, Saimir Pirgu as Fenton, Rose Feola as Nannetta, Saverio Fiore as Doctor Caius, Daniela Barcellona as Mrs. Quickly, Luca Dall’Amico as Pistola, Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani as Bardolfo, and Laura Polverelli as Meg) brought the drama and color of Verdi’s work through their voices. Maestro Muti truly draws the absolute best from every singer and musician he works with – the performance given by this all-Italian ensemble and the orchestra/chorus was rewarded with extended standing ovations and multiple curtain calls! A staged opera wasn’t necessary to bring Verdi’s work to life – not when you have the genius Verdi interpreter of Riccardo Muti leading it all. In fact, it was so good that I’ve decided I’ll also head to the last performance next Tuesday. There aren’t many chances to hear Maestro Muti conduct Verdi, so I figured that I might as well just go again…plus it’s a good way to get away from the stress of impending midterms 😀
UPDATE (4/29/2016): Well, I got to attend Tuesday’s performance as well, and it was a rousing conclusion to Maestro Muti’s three week residency here in Chicago! Come to think of it, I attended both the first and last concerts of his residency! Anyways, I was sitting way up in the gallery this time cause I bought my ticket last minute, but it actually was, in some respect, a little better this time around in that I got to see the supertitles in conjunction with the rest of the performance. But…it also wasn’t as perfect like Thursday’s concert seemed to be. Some of the singers did become a little bit harder to hear when sitting that high up, and I think there was a mistake by the guitarist during his solo, which was disappointing. Nevertheless, I absolutely commend the performances given by Maestri, Salsi, Buratto, and Feola. Some of the main highlights included Falstaff and Ford’s duet, Nanetta’s Fairy Queen aria, and the final fugue, but the opera contains way more great short moments of genius that is really defining of Falstaff as an opera. Afterwards, I got to meet the cast (my favorite being Ambrogio Maestri) and get most of their autographs on my program (I missed a couple of them unfortunately), as well as Maestro Muti! Maestro Muti was preparing to leave for the night, so I’m super grateful (again) that he took the time to sign autographs for crazy fans like myself, haha 😀 While I had the cast sign my program, I had Maestro Muti sign the libretto because this opera of Verdi is really one of Maestro Muti’s specialties (one of his two favorite operas) and I thought it would be super cool to have his signature on the specially-made libretto for this set of concerts – definitely something I’ll hang on to! And just a random thing, but the New York Times recently gave a glowing review of the concert and proclaimed Muti as “The King of Verdi” and it’s a pretty awesome coincidence that the King of Verdi signed my program with a gold sharpie 😀 Check it out below!