With Falstaff stagings positively ubiquitous this year, director Annelise Miskimmon - recently appointed to a prestigious position with Danish National Opera - is not alone in opting for an update. Here we seem to be between the wars as the action begins in a cottage hospital for recovering veterans. Sir John Falstaff - a war hero gone to seed? - holds court in a surreal metroland of Tudorbethan architecture and village tea parties where convention rules, everyone keeps busy and the straitlaced vicar and his WI wife (Mr Ford and Alice) are the acme of society. But we are also shown the passionate hinterland beneath the respectable veneer. The clever model-village set by Nicky Shaw, all inglenooks and chintz before the interval, manages also to evoke an older, primal England - the Windsor Forest scene is achieved very simply by Shaw and lighting designer Mark Jonathan.
A scene from Falstaff at Holland Park, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
Olafur Sigurdarson, on resplendent vocal form with a fine line in adroit physical comedy, is fully equal to the demands of the title role. And with George von Bergen a compelling Ford, their Act II interaction is a real highlight. The merry wives make an effective comic unit, with Carole Wilson’s below-stairs Quickly especially well observed.
Conductor Peter Robinson obtains the essential continuity and drive from the City of London Sinfonia. The sound can turn shouty - there’s no pit at Holland Park - but special moments like the diaphanous fairy music of the last act are achieved with wonderful finesse.
Falstaff is one of a handful of operas one wishes were longer than their allotted span. The same goes for OHP’s summer season.