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He’s rotund, old, lecherous and broke, yet Falstaff is one of the most endearing characters in literature. William Shakespeare’s aging knight comes to life in this effervescent Verdi gem, as his scheme to get rich by simultaneously wooing two wealthy married women backfires…badly. In a hysterical twist, Falstaff finds himself the victim of his own tomfoolery, and at the mercy of those he tormented. But there are still a few tricks to be played, and the prince of rascality always has the last laugh!

Virginia Opera joins the worldwide celebration of the Verdi Bicentennial with this First of Firsts production staged by internationally acclaimed director Stephen Lawless. Conductor Joseph Rescigno returns to the podium after being praised for his “complete command” of The Valkyrie in 2011. Baritone Stephen Powell makes his company and role debut in the title role of our charming, yet devious “hero.”

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Sir John Falstaff sits in a room at the Garter Inn, along with his compatriots, Bardolfo and Pistola. Dr. Caius enters, and loudly accuses Falstaff of being drunk in the Doctor’s home, berating his servants, and having broken into his quarters. Falstaff accepts the charges with pride. The furious doctor then rounds on the other men, berating them for having gotten him drunk and picking his pockets.

Falstaff chides his servants for being so inelegant in their robbery to get caught. Bardolfo goes into Falstaff’s purse to pay the bill, but finds only a few pennies.  So Falstaff tells the men his plan—he has written letters to two rich married women, Alice Ford and Meg Page. He hopes to woo the women, and then take part in their husbands’ fortunes.

Neither Bardolfo nor Pistola will agree to deliver the letters, saying it offends their sense of honor. Falstaff sends the letters off with a page, and berates the two men for thinking there is such a thing as honor—which cannot fill a belly or cure an ill—and drives them out of the inn with a broom.

In the garden of the Ford house, Alice Ford and her daughter Nannetta meet with Meg Page and Mistress Quickly. The women soon realize that Falstaff has sent them identical letters, and agree that such a ridiculous villain must be punished.  

The women withdraw as Ford, Bardolfo, Pistola, Dr. Caius, and Fenton come into the garden. Bardolfo and Pistola have come to warn Ford of Falstaff’s designs on his wife, and Ford is in a jealous fury. The ladies return, and as the two groups spot each other, both decide that this would be a good moment to be scarce, and so all the older people depart, giving Fenton and Nannetta a rare moment alone to express their love.

Soon the women return, having devised a plot—they will reply to Falstaff’s request for a meeting and lure the fat knight into a trap.  


Mistress Quickly informs Falstaff that both women return his affections, and that Alice’s husband will not be home from two until three. After Quickly, Falstaff has another visitor – a Maestro Fontana (actually Ford in disguise). The Maestro wants Falstaff’s help in wooing Alice Ford, saying that if she has already been led astray, it will be easier for Fontana to step in and steal her from her husband. Falstaff is only too happy to take Fontana’s money, in fact, he already has an appointment with Alice for that afternoon. Ford tries to hide his anger, and the two men leave the inn together.

Alice, Meg, Mistress Quickly, and Nannetta prepare for Falstaff’s arrival.  Nannetta is bereft– she loves Fenton, but her father wishes her to marry the old Dr. Caius. The older women assure Nannetta that that will never happen.

Falstaff tries to woo Alice, who shies away from his touch. Mistress Quickly comes in, saying that Meg has come looking for Alice, and Falstaff hides behind the screen.  Meg was supposed to frighten Falstaff with a false warning that Ford was coming, but the real Ford approaches, filled with fury and a desire to catch his wife and her “lover” in the act.

As the men search the house, the women hide Falstaff in a large laundry basket. Ford returns, and hears kissing from behind the screen. Pulling it aside, he finds Nannetta and Fenton behind it, and promptly throws Fenton out of the house. 

Deciding that her husband has undergone enough strain, Alice rings for the servants, who come to toss the laundry basket out the window, and everyone watches as Falstaff tumbles into the Thames.


A very wet Falstaff has returned to the Garter Inn, and curses the world for its unfairness. Mistress Quickly arrives, and tells Falstaff that the incident with the hamper was an accident, and that Alice is inconsolable.  She wishes another rendezvous with Falstaff – at midnight in Windsor Park, where he should wait for her under Herne’s Oak, dressed as the Dark Huntsman.

Alice, Ford, Meg, Nannetta, Fenton, and Dr. Caius plot which roles they will play in the forest. Quickly overhears Ford instructing Dr. Caius to take note of Nanetta’s costume—Ford will marry them during the masquerade.  Quickly vows to stop them.

The night falls, and Falstaff tries once again to woo Alice, but is interrupted by Meg’s warning, this time of approaching supernatural creatures. Falstaff throws himself to the ground, fearing that a mere glimpse would kill him.  Nannetta, dressed as Queen of the Fairies, is soon joined by darker creatures, which begin to torment Falstaff in earnest. Falstaff shakes in fear, until one of the devils allows his hood to slip, and Falstaff recognizes him as Bardolfo! The rest of the deception unwinds, and Falstaff is forced to accept that he has been duped.

Ford calls for the evening to end in more celebrations, as a masked Dr. Caius takes the hand of a veiled Queen of the Fairies. Alice presents another couple, faces hidden by masks, who also wish to be blessed.

After Ford unites the couples, he asks that all masks be removed – everyone begins to laugh, as the Queen of the Fairies is revealed to actually be Bardolfo, and the other couple, of course, is Fenton and Nannetta. Ford, Dr. Caius, and Falstaff all have to admit that they have been made fools. Falstaff ends with a simple thought: “Everything in the world comes down to jesting, and man was born to play the fool…. But he who laughs last, laughs best!

- Claire Marie Blaustein


About the Composer

About the Composer

Giuseppe Verdi was born in the small village of Le Roncole, Italy, in 1813. His parents belonged to a middle class family of innkeepers and his father was enthusiastic about his son's education and chosen field. From an early age Giuseppe studied with local teachers. He received an old spinet as a gift from his father, and was eventually made the town's official organist. He also entered the ginnasio (high school) to study humanities and began formal music lessons with the director of the local Philharmonic Society.

Antonio Barezzi, a wealthy merchant and musician, recognized Verdi's musical talent and became his patron, providing financial support and encouragement for many years. With his aid, Verdi applied to the Milan Conservatory, but was refused, partly because he was past the entering age, but mostly because of his unorthodox piano technique. Instead, Verdi became the pupil of Vincenzo Lavigna, a former principal conductor at La Scala Opera House in Milan. Beyond this more formalized training, Verdi considered himself largely self-taught.

After completing his studies in 1835, Verdi was appointed maestro di musica in Busseto, near his hometown of Le Roncole. He held the post for three years, during which time he also composed, gave private lessons and married his benefactor Barezzi’s daughter. Verdi soon wrote his first opera, Oberto, in 1839, and began a professional career marked by continual rounds of negotiations with theaters and librettists, and intense periods of composition and preparation for the production of his work. Soon thereafter, terrible tragedy struck with the deaths of his wife and two very small children, causing him to nearly renounce composition altogether. However Nabucco, his next premiere, was an unprecedented success. In what is referred to as his "galley slave" years (1842-1853), Verdi arduously wrote sixteen operas - an average of one every nine months. Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, and La Traviata, written near the end of this period, soon became cornerstones of the Italian operatic repertory and are still immensely popular today.

Verdi's accumulated wealth granted him greater artistic freedom. In the second half of his life he would only compose eight more operas. He spent most of his time away from the theater, now married to his companion of many years, the former soprano Giuseppina Strepponi. In 1859 the public honored Verdi's patriotism by using his name as an acronym to spell out Vittorio Emanuele Re D'Italia, king of the newly united independent Italy.

He was nearing the age of sixty when he produced Aida in 1871. With Aida, Verdi achieved that fusion of French and Italian opera traditions that he had long desired. The death of his friend, the great writer Alessandro Manzoni, would inspire him to write the magnificent Messa da Requiem in 1874. After a period of general disillusionment and unhappiness, Verdi regained the will to compose during his later years. He subsequently composed two of his greatest masterpieces, Otello in 1887 and Falstaff in 1893.

Although many of Verdi's operas had disappeared from the repertory by the time of his death in 1901, he had nevertheless become a profound artistic symbol of Italy's achievement of statehood. It is said that during Verdi’s funeral thousands of mourners paid homage by spontaneously singing “Va pensiero,” a chorus from Nabucco written some sixty years earlier. "Va pensiero" expressed the public’s deep feelings and the extent to which Verdi's music had been assimilated into the Italian consciousness.


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Sir John Falstaff • Stephen Powell
Ford • Weston Hurt
Alice Ford • Elizabeth Caballero
Nannetta • Amanda Opuszynski
Meg Page  • Courtney Miller
Mistress Quickly • Ann McMahon Quintero
Fenton • Aaron Blake
Dr. Caius • Ryan Connelly
Bardolfo • Jeffrey Halili
Pistola • Jeffrey Tucker


Conductor • Joseph Rescigno                                                 
Director • Stephen Lawless      
Set Designer  • Russell Craig    
Costume Designer • Russell Craig                                                                               
Lighting Designer • Pat Collins 
Wig and Makeup Designer • James McGough  


Joseph Rescigno, Conductor

Joseph RescignoJoseph Rescigno has conducted for more than 50 companies on four continents. Since 1981, he has served as Artistic Advisor and Principal Conductor of the Florentine Opera Company of Milwaukee (WI), where he has conducted some of the company’s most challenging repertory. He also has been Music Director of La Musica Lirica, a summer program for singers in Northern Italy, since 2005. And he served as Artistic Director of Metropolitan Orchestra of Greater Montreal, Quebec for four seasons.
In his permanent and guest engagements, Maestro Rescigno traverses the repertory from new works like Minoru Miki’s Jōruri and Don Davis’s Río de Sangre (both world premieres under his baton) to rarities like Rossini’s 1816 La Gazzetta. He also champions neglected contemporary works like Barber’s Vanessa while conducting a broad swath of operas from the standard literature.
As a guest artist, Maestro Rescigno has conducted the New York City Opera, Lyric
Opera of Chicago, Washington National Opera, Hungarian State Opera, Opera
Theatre of Saint Louis, Seattle Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Vancouver Opera, Teatro
Bellini, l’Opéra de Marseille, and l’Opéra de Montréal among others. The symphony
orchestras he has conducted include the Montreal Symphony and the Milwaukee
Symphony, both of which he has led in their regular subscription series as well as in
opera productions.

Stephen Lawless, Director

Stephen LawlessDirector of Production for the Glyndebourne Touring Opera from 1986 to 1991, where his work culminated in an immensely successful production of Death in Venice, which was subsequently recorded by the BBC for television and video release. He made his début with the Kirov Opera in Leningrad producing Boris Godunov which was broadcast live on British television, the first ever live telecast of an opera from the Soviet Union to the UK.
He has directed throughout the world including The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; Glyndebourne Festival; the Vienna State Opera; La Fenice, Venice; the Berlin Staatsoper; The Metropolitan Opera, New York; Chicago; New York City Opera, Los Angeles; San Francisco; Washington, the Hong Kong and New Zealand Festivals and the complete Der Ring des Nibelungen for the Nürnberg Opera.
Recent and future engagements include Der Rosenkavalier for the Bolshoi Opera; Salome for Portland Opera; Tristan und Isolde in Magdeburg, Die Fledermaus in Geneva; L’elisir in San Diego and Washington; Carmen in Santa Fe and Guillaume Tell for Graz.

Stephen Powell, baritone

sopranoThis season Stephen Powell sings Rigoletto (Lyric Opera Baltimore), Simon Boccanegra (Warsaw), Belshazzar’s Feast (Houston Symphony), Iago in Otello (Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra), Mozart’s Requiem (St. Louis Symphony Orchestra), Carmina Burana (Cleveland Orchestra), Bach’s Mass in B Minor (Atlanta Symphony), Peer Gynt in Liepzig; Rodrigo in Don Carlos (Caramoor Festival). Recently he sang Bach’s B Minor Mass (Saint Louis Symphony, also Music of the Baroque); Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (Atlanta Symphony); Messiah (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra); Germont in La traviata (New York City Opera and Pittsburgh Opera); Carmina Burana (Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra); Rigoletto (Minnesota Orchestra); Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 (Aspen Music Festival).


Weston Hurt, baritone

Weston HurtBaritone Weston Hurt has appeared  in several distinguished opera houses throughout North America, including the New York City Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Seattle Opera, Portland Opera, Atlanta Opera, Arizona Opera, and the Canadian Opera Company. He has gained recognition for his portrayals of many of the great baritone roles, including the title role in Rigoletto, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, Germont in La Traviata, and Ford in Falstaff. Also a prolific concert performer, he has appeared at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center and on tour throughout South America, and is on the roster of the Marilyn Horne Foundation.


Elizabeth Caballero, soprano

Elizabeth CaballeroCuban American soprano Elizabeth Caballero has been heard throughout North America including the Metropolitan Opera, Seattle Opera, Florida Grand Opera, & New York City.  Recently, she sang her first performances as Madama Butterfly at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City & her German operatic debut at the Staatsoper Berlin. Future engagements include Mimi & Donna Elvira for Seattle Opera, a return to Madison Opera as Donna Anna, a debut in Hawaii Opera Theater as the Soprano Solo in Carmina Burana & NeddaVioletta in Florentine Opera, the title role in The Merry Widow & her first Anne Trulove in The Rakes Progress with the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra.

Amanda Opuszynski, soprano

Amanda OpuszynskiSoprano Amanda Opuszynski recently appeared as Frasquita (Carmen) with The Atlanta Opera and covered Woglinde and Wellgunde in Seattle Opera’s renowned Ring Cycle. During her two seasons with the Seattle Opera Young Artist Program, she appeared as Norina (Don Pasquale) and Sophie (Werther) and made her mainstage debut as Frasquita (Carmen). Ms. Opuszynski has also enjoyed apprenticeships with the Glimmerglass Festival, The Santa Fe Opera, and the Wolf Trap Opera Studio. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the University of Maryland Opera Studio and has twice been a Regional Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.


Courtney Miller, mezzo-soprano

Courtney MillerMezzo-Soprano Courtney Miller joins Virginia Opera as a Resident Artist this season.  A New England Regional Finalist of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions, Ms. Miller is a current Career Bridges Grant recipient.  Highlights include Sister Helen (Dead Man Walking), L’enfant (L’enfant et les sortilèges), Concepción (L’heure Espagnole),Romeo (I Capuleti e i Montecchi), and Nancy (Albert Herring)She has sung with Boston Lyric Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Ohio Light Opera, and Seagle Music Colony.  An art song enthusiast, Ms. Miller is an avid recitalist.  A Wisconsin native, Ms. Miller holds degrees from the University of Michigan and the Boston Conservatory.


Ann McMahon Quintero, mezzo-soprano

Ann McMahon QuinteroIn 2012-13 Ann McMahon Quintero sings Mary in Der fliegende Holländer (Boston Lyric Opera); Amneris in Aida (Annapolis Opera); Messiah (Boston Baroque); and Suor Pazienza in Giordano’s Messe Mariano (Spoleto Festival/USA). Highlights include Azucena in Il Trovatore (Opéra Royal de Wallonie); Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Boston Lyric Opera); La Haine in Gluck’s Armide and Marquise Melibea in Il viaggio a Reims (New Israeli Opera); Baba in The Rake’s Progress (Angers Nantes Opera); Auntie in Peter Grimes, Tisbe in La cenerentola (Washington National Opera); Glasa in Kátya Kabanová (Santa Fe Opera); and title role in Juditha Triumphans (Boston Baroque).


Aaron Blake, tenor

Aaron BlakeWhile American tenor Aaron Blake performs each role with the stage presence, poise and confidence of a veteran performer, his youthful charm and purity of tone have delighted opera audiences at major companies across the U.S. Mr. Blake has he appeared on stage as Tamino DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE, Il Contino Belfiore LA FINTA GIARDINIERA, Sam Kaplan STREET SCENE, Nemorino L’ELISIR D’AMORE, Rinuccio GIANNI SCHICCHI, and Don Ottavio DON GIOVANNI. This season Mr. Blake will be performing Tamino in THE MAGIC FLUTE with Opera Birmingham, Mambre in MOSES IN EGYPT with New York City Opera and Don Ottavio in DON GIOVANNI with Cincinnati Opera.


Ryan Connelly, tenor

Ryan ConnellyRyan C. Connelly, tenor, is from New Freedom, Pennsylvania.  He attended Temple University where he received a Bachelor's Degree in Voice Performance in 2009, and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where he received a Master's degree in Voice Performance in 2011.  He has since performed with many companies, including Kentucky Opera, making his professional debut as Remendado in Carmen; the Queen City Chamber Opera, singing the roles of Vogelsang and Bastien in the company’s first production of Der Schauspieldirektor and Bastienne und Bastienne; and the CCM Spoleto festival, where he starred in Rossini’s Il Signor Bruschino as Florville.


Jeffrey Halili, tenor

Jeffrey HaliliTenor Jeffrey Halili’s career highlights include performances with New York City Opera, Michigan, New Orleans, Virginia, San Antonio, Nashville and Florida Grand Opera.  At Santa Fe Opera, he performed Ajax in La Belle Helene alongside Susan Graham.  Mr. Halili has had many performances with Virginia Opera. In concert Mr. Halili has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and Buffalo Philharmonic. Mr. Halili is a graduate of the Academy of Vocal Arts.  He received his Master's in Vocal Performance from Indiana University and his Bachelor's in Vocal Performance from the State University of New York.


Jeffrey Tucker, bass

Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker has performed to popular acclaim in many of the United States’ leading houses, creating a following with both audiences and presenters alike. He recently made his New York City Opera debut as Judge III MARGARET GARNER after which Tucker was heard as Lesbo AGRIPPINA and Siroco L'ÉTOILE in back to back seasons. Last season Tucker made his Virginia Opera debut in the title role of THE MIKADO. Other notable roles include Sparafucile RIGOLETTO, Rocco FIDELIO, Scaristan TOSCA, and Loudspeaker/Death in DER KAISER VON ATLANTIS which he will be reviving again this season.



Russell Craig, Set and Costume Designer

First LastnameInitially trained and worked in New Zealand. British theatre companies he has designed musicals and plays for include The Royal Shakespeare Company, Manchester Royal Exchange, The Royal Lyceum Edinburgh, Chichester festival theatre and many touring and regional companies throughout the UK. He has been an associate of the Unicorn Theatre, designing plays,dance and opera for children. He now designs sets for the Chipping Norton pantomimes.He has designed numerous Opera productions for Scottish Opera, Opera North, Welsh National Opera, English National Opera, Glyndebourne , Wexford and Buxton Festivals. In Europe he has worked in Ireland,Germany, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Previous productions in North America include My Fair Lady in Minneapolis and L’Elisir DiAmore in Boston.

Pat Collins, Lighting Designer

Credits include The Ring Cycle, Januffa, La Calisto (Royal Opera House), Rienzi, Mazeppa, Simone Boccanegra, The Plumber’s Gift (English National Opera) and over fifty productions for such Companies as: The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera, San Francisco Opera, The Glyndebourne Festival, The Minnesota Opera, The Florida Grand Opera, Flemish Opera, Netherlands Opera, The Bayerische Staatsopera (Munich), The Paris Opera at the Garnier, most recently Elixer of Love and Tales of Hoffman at Santa Fe Opera, Orfeo, Tancredi at Theater am der Wien and others.

James McGough, wig & makeup designer

James P. McGough is pleased to return for his 16th season with the Virginia Opera. During the off season, Jim is a designer and Make-Up artist for Fort Worth Opera Festival. Over a 25 year career, Jim’s work has been seen in theatres across the U.S. from Broadway to regional productions. He dedicates this season to the loving memory of his parents.