Falstaff closes out a boffo season of HSF and Highlands Opera Studio

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Sir John Fallstaff played by John-Paul Decosse. Photo courtesy of Jack Brezina HSF. All right reserved.

We really really liked Falstaff – the Opera!

BY TERRANCE GAVAN – HALNEWS.CA MUSIC GUY
Falstaff-  HSF Summer Production of Highlands Opera Studio

A production by Highlands Opera Studio 

Tuesday September 27, 2011 – Northern Lites Theater in Haliburton

Co-Directors – Richard Margison, Valerie Kuinka

Produced by Jack Brezina and Melissa Stevens

Giuseppe Verdi only wrote two comedic operas and Falstaff – one of three Verdi operas based on Shakespeare works (withMacbeth and Otello) – is the funniest.

I can say that with a certain objectivity and with basso profundo certainty – because I’ve never seen Verdi’s other comedic opera.

I have seen Falstaff on two other occasions; when I was attending theUniversityofManitoba; and when I was quite tipsy; these twin statements run concurrently. Which is, when one takes some time to think of it – and factoring in Sir John’s proclivity for mulled wine – both ironic and redundant.

I haven’t had a drink in 13 years or so. And I can’t really remember exactly what I thought of Falstaff way back in the 1980s.

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Mistress Quickly (Erica Iris Huang) has a word in John's ear. Photo used with permission HSF. All rights reserved.

But here’s the deal. On Tuesday evening a coupla’ weeks ago, at the Northern Lites Theater of Performing Arts, I watched a show that was mesmerizing, funny, and musically powerful.

Let’s just say that while Falstaff viewing one and two remain incalculably reticent in my neural cavity, this performance presented by Highlands Opera Studio and co-directors Richard Margison and Valerie Kuinka was simply one of the best opera experiences of my young life. (57 is the new 33. Knuckleheads.)

And I caught Handel’s Messiah at the Met!

Meh. I found it a bit kvetchy, moribund and lackluster.

Falstaff, the opera is as sardonic, ironic and as chronic as the good knight Sir John Falstaff himself; devoid of judgement, morals and healthy eating habits Sir John is anon, anon sir; abysmally absent of pretense; and a man so deluded by his predilection to narcissism as to be almost unbelievable. And he would be an unbelievably truncated figure, if we didn’t all know at least one aging buffoon exactly like Sir John. I know three. Wait four. No, anon, anon… it’s yoiks and zounds! Seven. Don’t worry. Only two of you reside in the Greater Haliburton area.

The opera is based on Willy Shakes’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and Shakes, if he knew anything, knew human nature. And he also knew how to take the piss – as the Brits call it. Verdi, no slouch himself, made this masterpiece to enhance Sir John’s already plump and rummy – puns intended – human frailties.

Sir John Falstaff remains my own favorite – for his enduring and enjoyable inanity – Shakespearian character because my first play, and thus my introduction to Falstaff, came by way of Henry IV. Back in high school and read pleasantly by Fr. Big Bob Bedard. (Editors aside: Please English teachers everywhere. Read Shakespeare to your students. Hire me if you can’t do it justice!)

Falstaff is the video game of operas – its myriad plots, sub-plots, skewed textual nuance and shrewd callback is reminiscent of Groucho Marx or Soupy Sales? Takes youse pick! Falstaff is my kind of opera.

And what a dazzling, lovely, strong and vibrant opera.

In the lobby during one of two intermissions, a citified patron – a very nice lady – said how nice it was to be able to see such huge talent on the stage of a Haliburton Theater. “I’ve seen all of these performers inToronto,” she gasped. “You should feel very lucky to have them here.”

Now being a sardonic bastard I was tempted to lapse into a Charlie Farquarhson patois. “Oh we do m’lady we do! Y’all don’t knows just how much we luvs us our grande olde opreys down here in the Holler.”

So okay, I’m taking the mick with a poor wee anonymous woman. Maybe she isn’t aware of the vibrant operatic program that Margison and Kuinka have nurtured here in theHighlands. And all in all, it was nice of her to notice that we have this thang goin’ on down here. So we’ll cut her some slack for the dripping paternalism and backhanded compliments.

And instead we’ll take time right now to salute the Festival and the broad strokes of the cast and the company of a boffo close out to another Highlands Festival season.

Thank you Highland Opera Studio, the cast and the creative team.

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What are Quickly and John up to? Nice photo courtesy of HSF and Jack Brezina. All rights reserved.

Dr Caius was Frederic Beaudoin – bravissimo! Sir John was played brilliantly and sung ecstatically by John Paul Decosse. Bardolfo was Michael Marino and Pistola played by Michael Uloth.

Erin Lawson as Meg; Tracy Cantin asAliceFord; Erica Iris Huang as the devilishly scheming Mistress Quickly. Bravo! Bravo!

Nanetta was played by Lisa DiMaria and Graham Thomson played Fenton with Todd Delaney as Mister Ford. The Innkeeper/The Man/The Devil was played by Ben Ward.

And last but not least our local contingent of young actresses played by Betty and Charlotte Paton along with Rebecca Hamilton. Bava… Brava… and very nicely done girls.

Timothy Vernon conducted and Milos Repicky was the pianist.

Jack Brezina and Melissa Stevens produced the show.

The people in the wings, the set designers and the seamstresses and all of the people who assisted out front and backstage?

Bravo.

We’ll miss you.

Now… anon, anon good players.

We will see you anon! Next season!

gav@pardontheeruption.com http://twitter.com/terrancegavan[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]