Whenever the topic "musicians who seldom get the credit they deserve" comes up, a goto example of this sad phenomenon is maestro James Conlon (and this is not just a New Yorker's pride on my part): he is a fine, fine maestro, with a keen understanding for Verdi's raw emotional power and he gets Verdi's talent for nuance. And Conlon's a good man, to boot.
One of Pizzi's witty ideas, and I hope we're not spoiling anything here for the audience, is that the ending of the opera causes the sets to fall apart, destroying the fiction of the theatre and revealing the stage machinery beneath the sets.
"Big Belly", as Verdi called him during the feverish writing of his last great work, will be Ruggero Raimondi (in the photo above, courtesy of Salzburg Festival, Raimondi in Salzburg in 2001 as Falstaff, Claudio Abbado conductor).
"I always dreamed of staging Falstaff -- Pizzi explained during the press conference at the theatre -- It has perfect dramatic timing, it flows magnificently. It flows so well that I've decided to abolish one intermission, there will just be one intermission between the first and second act. There's not a dull moment in this opera, a race toward folly!". Pizzi's Falstaff takes place in the last decade of the 19th century.
According to Raimondi, "this opera's characters are in constant evolution as the action barges ahead; but there are moments of reflection, of nostalgia".
Conlon admitted that "every chance one has to conduct Falstaff is a joy, a special occasion" and then explained that the first time he saw the opera he was 14. It was Franco Zeffirelli's famous staging. According to the New York born maestro, "in Falstaff Verdi is a master of comedy, with a sense of irony: he very wittyly quotes his own work, Traviata and Otello for example ".
(Conlon photo above courtesy of Ravinia Festival)