One of literature’s most infamous scoundrels, Sir John Falstaff, is stalking the Paul Davenport Theatre stage in UWOpera’s outstanding production of Giuseppe Verdi’s comedic opera, Falstaff.
“Stalking” is an appropriate verb, for on the night I saw the show, Chad Louwerse, who plays the portly character in both double cast presentations, literally dominated the stage in every scene in which he appeared. To use an old cliché: It was Falstaff’s world and the rest of the characters were merely living in it.
Based on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, and on scenes from Henry IV, Verdi’s opera recounts the thwarted and farcical efforts of the corpulent knight Sir John Falstaff, who has clearly see better days, to seduce two married women to gain access to their husbands’ wealth. In the process, Falstaff receives his come-uppance much to the delight of the other characters and audience members.
Under the tutelage of director Michael Cavanagh and Music Director Alain Trudel, the UWOpera students provide a performance which is one for the ages.
Chad Louwerse was born to play Falstaff. His exaggerated mannerisms, speech and singing provide the character with an over-the-top component that had the audience in stitches throughout the performance I saw.
Also notable are Cristina Pisani as Alice Ford and Amanda Weatherall as Meg Page, the objects of Falstaff’s affections and schemes. Patrick Bowman as Alice’s would-be cuckolded husband Ford is outstanding. Sir John’s servants, Bardolfo and Pistola are played with great aplomb by Louis DeNil and Clarke Ruth. But really, the entire cast is terrific and there was not a weak link to be found.
The pit orchestra was flawless and the costumes sublime. The very impressive sets were easily moved and changed by cast members without detracting from the opera’s flow. Lighting for the performance was most effective particularly in Act III which takes place in a supernatural forest.
In the end, Falstaff gets his just desserts and the two star-crossed lovers, Fenton and Nannetta, are joined in holy matrimony. It earned the cast and crew an enthusiastic standing ovation and shouts of Bravo! when it was all said and done.
Once again, it bears repeating how fortunate Londoners are to have the UWOpera program as an arts incubator within their city limits.
The students close out their season on March 11 and 12 with their annual Opera/Musical Theatre Gala. Mark the dates in your calendar now!