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“Precisely calibrated and musically captivating production”

In his first operatic venture, Christopher Luscombe delivers a sharply observed, precision-engineered production. Set in 2019, it even features a walk-on by a certain corgi-loving resident of Windsor.

But equal credit is due to the conductor, Francesco Cilluffo, for a show that hits all the spots with real flair – and without ramming its points home. Comic-opera convention only rears its (antlered) head in the climactic scene at Herne’s Oak, in any case an overt set piece with few 21st-century resonances.

Simon Higlett’s sliding, revolving set is a triumph, accommodating the comfy lounge of the Garter Inn, the riverside facade and gleaming kitchen of the Ford residence, and a nippy Thames steam launch. The characters’ choices of smart casual wear say everything about them – above all Falstaff’s ‘bohemian’ patchwork jacket: he proudly sees himself as an attraction for selfie-snapping tourists.

For all his fatuity, Robert Hayward’s splendidly sonorous Falstaff also exudes genuine pathos after his dunking in the Thames. Machinating irresistibly against him is Elin Pritchard’s soaring, peachy-voiced Alice Ford, while Nicholas Lester as her initially drippy husband roars like a lion once inflamed with jealousy.

Susan Bickley is not a fruity contralto, but who could resist her conspiratorial shadings and consummate comic acting as Mistress Quickly? Rhian Lois’ sparky Nannetta spins a gossamer line, Alessandro Fisher’s Fenton oozes graceful tenor charm and Angela Simkin sounds tangy as Meg.

Completing the virtuoso ensemble are Graham Clark, dapper and pompous as Dr Caius, Pietro di Bianco as the slick, charcoal-toned Pistola, and Christopher Gillett, unforgettably seedy as Bardolfo.

Le Nozze di Figaro review at Grange Festival – ‘a visually elegant and clearly directed production’

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Production Details
Production nameFalstaff
VenueGrange Festival
StartsJune 7, 2019
EndsJune 29, 2019
Running time3hrs 40mins
ComposerGiuseppe Verdi
DirectorChristopher Luscombe
ConductorFrancesco Cilluffo
Set designerSimon Higlett
Lighting designerPeter Mumford
CastAngela Simkin, Susan Bickley, Alessandro Fisher, Christopher Gillett, Elin Pritchard, Graham Clark, Nicholas Lester, Pietro Di Bianco, Rhian Lois, Robert Hayward
ProducerGrange Festival
VerdictChristopher Luscombe's production is savvily updated, precisely calibrated and musically captivating
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