Warwick Fyfe’s magnificent performance proves there’s nothing wrong with new wine in old bottles.

Falstaffmay justly claim to be Verdi’s masterpiece. Started at the ripe old age of 77 and first performed when the composer was 80 years old, the subject of a man coming to terms with the times and dwindling physical resources must have been close to the bone. Not that Verdi was either fat or dissolute. By 1893, the ornament of the Italian operatic stage projected a reclusive and rather frugal character – a gentleman farmer, happier supervising his lands and estates than frequenting taverns or playhouses. Nevertheless, the great man fell upon Arrigo Boito’s brilliantly chiselled libretto like the fat knight himself upon a haunch of venison. Although he worked on the score for a mere two hours a day, the octogenarian Verdi threw himself into rehearsals with the energy of a twenty year old, teaching singers and adjusting vocal parts and instrumentation right up to the last moment.

The Merry Wives of Windsorhad been adapted countless times for the operatic stage during the 19th century but anyone who has sat through Salieri or Nicolai’s efforts will know that the experience can seem...

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