Thursday, April 28, 2016

Otto Nicolai and the Merry Wives of Windsor

Last time we looked at Verdi’s setting of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor in his comic opera Falstaff. Though Verdi’s setting is probably the most famous, there are other composers who wrote works based on the same story including Otto Nicolai, whom we will discuss today.

Otto Nicolai was a German composer who wrote in the Italian style. He is known for founding the Vienna Philharmonic. He might have been more famous if he had accepted a commission to write the opera Nabucco. Following his rejection, Verdi took the project and created the opera we know and love today.

The overture to Nicolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor (1849) is perhaps the best-known portion of his opera today. While it draws from the entire opera, it prominently highlights the scene at night in Windsor Park when Falstaff arrives as a fairy-tale character and encounters “fairies.”

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