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It's another Major cultural event for Monte-Carlo. At the famous Opera House, in the building shared with the legendary Casino, a new production of Verdi's Falstaff. We attended the dress rehearsal and there was a full house to see it.
Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel stars as the unfortunate Falstaff. "He's being made fun of by these beautiful gorgeous women who he thinks he still 'can' with his two beautiful letters. "He's an enormous man… he's fighting old age… he still wants that youth – a very virile character."
But just why is Falstaff dressed up as a rooster? Producer Jean-Louis Grinda explains. "This is my personal view of Falstaff, whose story I wanted to present as a fable – a device that enables us to see him in a somewhat distorted way. "The fable creates a certain distance from the story, and I like that gap between the human character the way he should be, and the animal character that we show, which still hasn't totally forsaken its human nature."
Bryn Terfel: "With this production the animal takes over the characterisation. Although Jean-Louis, the director, said 'don't use too much animal movements', you cannot help yourself but do a little wiggle and a giggle." Bryn Terfel is considered one of the greatest bass-baritones of our times. Wooed by the world's most prestigious opera houses, he's long been a highly appreciated Mozart performer – today he's almost fully devoted to singing Wagner. "When you sing Mozart you have a social life, you go out with your friends, you go to movies, restaurants, art galleries; when you do Wagner you go home, you lock the door – and that's it. 'Falstaff is the only Verdi I do."
After being punished for being too forward, Falstaff repents and soon finds his self-confidence again; it's he who provides the moral of the story: that all the world is folly and all are figures of fun. "Falstaff is the object of two Major practical jokes but in the ends he says something very deep and true: 'You made fun of me but without me you couldn't have used your wit – I'm the one who put some spice in your lives!' "