MONTREAL — Move over, tragedy.
Words like “lighthearted” and “comedy” don’t necessarily first come to mind when thinking opera. Until now.
Opera de Montreal pays proper due to Giuseppe Verdi with “Falstaff” for four performances beginning Saturday, Nov. 9, and its annual gala, which takes place Sunday, Dec. 1.
“We want to celebrate Verdi’s bicentennial,” Opera de Montreal artistic director Michel Beaulac said. Verdi was born in 1813.
“Falstaff” is the story of Sir John Falstaff, an old, broke and drunken ladies’ man who sends out one too many identical love letters — to his complete and utter humiliation. Verdi’s inspiration for “Falstaff” comes from Shakespeare’s “The Two Merry Wives of Windsor” and portions of “Henry IV.”
“‘Falstaff’ is simply one of Verdi’s greatest operas,” Beaulac said. “It’s one of his masterpieces. He’s in full possession of his knowledge as a composer and a theater person.”
Beaulac said the structure of the work in terms of comedy “is so well put together.”
“It runs like a Swiss watch,” Beaulac said.
The opera is lighthearted fare.
“Nobody dies,” Beaulac quipped. “Except for maybe Falstaff’s pride. The character is so pretentious. His pride is put to the test. That’s the element that passes on.”
Up until only recently, Opera de Montreal’s Falstaff has been replaced. Paolo Gavanelli was originally slated for the plum title role until a hand injury required surgery. The “new” Falstaff is now being played by Oleg Bryjak.
“And he’s a fabulous Falstaff,” Beaulac said. “He’s incredibly convincing in all aspects for the title role.”
Marie-Nicole Lemieux portrays Mrs. Quickly, one of Falstaff’s love interests. Lemieux has played the role all over the world.
“She’s probably the best Mrs. Quickly at the present time,” Beaulac said. “She’s famous for that part.”