BWW Review: San Diego Opera's FALSTAFF a Moveable Feast
Any audience member who arrived at last night's San Diego Opera opening of Verdi's Falstaff feeling a bit peckish would have left completely satiated after the delectable antipasto-to-pasticceria buffet offered up by the company's stellar, virtuoso cast and crew.
With debuts by Italian baritone Roberto de Candia in the title role, baritone Troy Cook as Ford, soprano Maureen McKay as Nannetta, and tenor Jonathon Johnson as Fenton, and return performances by soprano Ellie Dehn and mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti, the entire production charmed and delighted the audience from start to finish with sidesplitting slapstick, uproarious pratfalls and engaging portrayals of story lines depicting the pains and pleasures of both idealistic young love and disillusioned marital angst.
At the center of the action, capturing the stage at his every comic turn musically and physically, was de Candia's hopelessly egotistical yet sympathetic Sir John. Vocally he delivered impressively on every note and turn of phrase: strong-voiced and powerful yet ably displaying the droll subtleties of Verdi's final work. Dramatically he gave a virtuoso performance on a par with any of the top Falstaffs in recent operatic history and worthy of any leading opera house worldwide.
As his romantic nemesis Alice Ford, Dehn had no trouble sparring with de Candia. Her luminous soprano and virtuoso theatrical abilities were perfectly matched with de Candia's vocal power and comical skills. Their ironically tender amorous exchanges were a joy to watch: impeccably timed, riotously funny and vocally skilled.
Troy Cook made a notable debut in the role of Alice's covetous husband. His bitter protests of outraged cuckoldry and wounded ego were wholly believable and played to maximum effect, backed up by an elegantly beauteous voice that was somewhat lost in the lower registers but resplendent in the upper ones.
Soprano Maureen McKay's much-anticipated Nannetta did not disappoint. Every note shimmered with luscious beauty, and her peppy physical comedy was a pleasure to watch. The stage positively glowed with her presence. The interactions between her and tenor Jonathon Johnson were precious few, but the duo delivered charmingly in their mutual vocal sonorities and the intensity of their love was so touching as to inspire one almost to believe in the ideal virtues of true love.
Last seen and heard in SDO's April, 2015 50th Anniversary Celebration Concert, mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti (/bwwopera/article/BWW-Interview-Mezzo-Soprano-Marianne-Cornetti-Swings-for-the-Fences-20170131) won over the audience (and this reviewer) with her hilarious rendition of the pivotal Mistress Quickly. The difficulties of the role, with its many notes in the low register and physically challenging split-second timing, are often overlooked; Cornetti made it look and sound easy, with consistently rich tones and expertly played shenanigans.