This year’s Munich Opera Festival does not end, as has been the recent tradition, with Die Meistersinger, but instead Verdi’s Falstaff. That—and three more Verdi operas in the last week: Macbeth, Luisa Miller, and Otello—goes some way in showing Bachler’s passion for Verdi. It might also point to Bachler’s enjoyment of shaking things up just a little. The production of Falstaff itself—by Eike Gramss and Gottfried Pilz, premiered in 2001 when I last saw it with Bryn Terfel in the title role—doesn’t do much shaking. It is lovely, it dabbles along happily, and it’s carried entirely by the strength of the performing singers and actors. Those were, fortunately, very fine in this performances. Falstaff was played up with gusto by Ambrogio Maestri. If his second act revealed more than just the character’s weaknesses, the third showed he still has got the voice—and certainly the dramatic talent to make the most of this.
Michael Volle is an effective, prickly Ford, who wastes his dramatic talent in this role in this particular production. He certainly is luxuriously cast, vocally, though. Alice and Meg (Anja Harteros and Gabriela Scherer) are gorgeous to look at and Anja Harteros’ Alice a pleasure to listen to. Daniil Shtoda’s Fenton barreled about amiably. Most interesting, apart from Maestri, were Marie-Nicole Lemieux’s Mrs. Quickly and Elena Tsallagova’s Nanetta. The Québécoise contralto must have watched every re-run of “Are You Being Served”, so closely was her Miss Quickly modeled on Mrs. Slocombe. Anyone familiar with the series must have half expected her to inquire about her missing pussy at any given time. And who is the North-Ossetian Elena Tsalagova? I missed her Salzburg debut in 2007 (Zelmira in Armida) and didn’t notice her in some of the other minor roles at the Bavarian State Opera. But no one didn’t notice her Nanetta. It was the most believable possible portrayal of the role: a believably excited teeny in size and demeanor and with a glorious voice full of silvery ringing high tones. The most enthusiastic cheers were—rightly—hers Tuesday night, the second-to-last Falstaff performance at the 2009 Festival.