Milan last greeted Verdi’s final opera Falstaff in 2004. Nine years ago, Teatro alla Scala was closed, pending restoration, so the Giorgio Strehler production curtained under Muti's baton at Teatro degli Arcimboldi on the city's outskirts, dedicated to Tito Gobbi's death-year 20th anniversary for his enduring, late 1950s whiskered Falstaff with Herbie von Karajan and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.
It was also the year of OC's inaugural Milan visit, and over summer break, she visited La Scala's museum, its collections temporarily housed in a stunning palazzo on Corso Magenta that overlooked Santa Maria della Grazia. The Northern Italian city of understated, un-boastful elegance struck OC as one who never tried too hard -- the very definition of cool -- and instantly reverberated with New York-based OC. Aaaand you guys pretty much know the rest of the story.
Falstaff (tonight in its penultimate replication) is the only Robert Carsen- stamped production in Teatro alla Scala’s 2012-13 season (in coproduction with Royal Opera House and the Canadian Opera Company) and as Carsen Crusaders, we weren’t going to miss it. We find his b-side, hidden track of ripe sexuality -- never vulgar or desperate (unless it has to be) -- and his fashion title familiarity a winning match for Milan, and since we’re not convinced that Falstaff needs a traditional Shakespearian director to stage it, we loved it.
We've never supported a buffo Falstaff staging and feel that it needs a delicate balance between commedia lirica and opera seria -- a fat knight mocked in his twilight, a bittersweet glimpse of flawed man too arrogant to realize it until everything converges in absolute absurdity -- tutto nel mondo e' burla -- and that's where a lot of lazy directors get it wrong.