This month, Clef Notes is exploring various musical settings of Shakespeare in honor of the 400th anniversary of his passing that took place this past Saturday, April 23. This week, let’s look at several famous settings of his comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Did you know that Falstaff was Verdi’s final opera, premiered in 1893 and completed just before the composer turned 80? With the success of Otello, Verdi’s librettist, Arrigo Boito, persuaded him to write a comic opera based on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor. The hilarious plot follows the story of Sir John Falstaff, who desires to seduce the wives of two of Windsor’s wealthiest men. Shakespeare first introduced his Falstaff character in the Henry IV plays. Legend says that he then brought him back in Merry Wives at the queen’s request to witness Falstaff in love.
The opera is challenging for both the performers and audience as it’s quite fast paced, the plot beginning immediately without an overture or prelude! You can watch below.
Next time, we’ll continue looking at The Merry Wives of Windsor by exploring Otto Nicolai’s setting.