Falstaff was Giuseppe Verdi’s last opera and his first comic one. In it, the composer showcases a lighter style, running wild with playful strings and woodwinds that seem to be poking fun at the pomposity of Italian opera. The libretto, based on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV, is laced with a mocking humor to match: it traces the adventures of the eponymous Falstaff, a doddering old man who falls foul of the cunning of the women he pursues. The comic treatment of the theme of old age must have resonated with Verdi, who was in his eighties when he composed the opera. Although not one of the composer’s most famous pieces, Falstaff remains notable for its modernity, its striking vivacity, and its perfect balancing of duos and choruses.

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