Review by Danny Gaisin
Shakespeare’s plays contain a plethora of women outfoxing the males. Taming’s ‘Katherine’ & Merchant’s Portia’. 12th Night’s Olivia & Much Ado’s Hero and Beatrice to name a few; but his Merry Wives of Windsor which is the epitome of the genre. Verdi’s last opera is a musical retelling of how John Falstaff gets his come-uppance at the hands of a coterie of ladies. Opera Hamilton’s staging of this boffo is artistically creative and musically a treat. Photo courtesy of John Overmeyer
Brief plot – Sir John is a self-indulgent hedonist who decides to seduce a couple of married ladies in order to get his paws on their husband’s gelt. They immediately see through his intentions and decide to turn the tables making him the goat instead of their dear hubbies. Naturally, they’ll be some intrigue-ish convolutions, some interesting sub-plots and a plethora of memorable compositions until the final curtain when “All’s Well… etc.”
The villain of the piece is Sir John himself and the amazing baritone voice and thespian talents of John Fanning are perfectly suited to the role. The man has such charisma that he commands attention just by being on stage. His comedic timing and lyric emphasis make this reading of the eponymous persona novel and inspired. Fanning receives strong support from Jeremy Blossey as his servant Bardolfo & cohort Jon Paul Décosse as Pistola. Their comedic moments are a pure giggle. Lyne Fortin and James Westman are the Ford’s (“any color as long as it’s black”; and a $5.00/day wage) oops, wrong Ford. Anyhoo, they both possess strong voices and can also act out their roles. Westman’s soliloquy at the start of Act II is a highlight point.
This was our first exposure to the star quality of Sasha Djihanian who’s Nannetta is both eye-and ear catching. She can hold a note without falter for what seemed like minutes… amazing range and control. Her social counterpart is sung by Theo Lebow and there is some obvious chemistry between them. The scene where they are busy necking behind a screen –stage right, while Westman and Caius (the doctor/suitor of Nannetta, played & sung by James McLennan) enlist some chorus members to hunt down the miscreant cavalier, actually steals the spectacle occurring on the rest of the stage.
Speaking of the stage, Troy Hourie’s set is stark and at first glance looks like the beginning of a Mondrian piece of artwork. A little too avant garde for this aficionado but the column is about opera; not painting! Costumes are exquisite and stage management has some cute moments such as the change-crew being conducted by one of the characters facing stage rear! Acoustically, as I’ve previously noted, Aquarius is more suited to a head-miked theatre offering than opera, but the bottom line is certainly more advantageous than Hamilton Place. FALSTAFF has performances until Oct. 26th. Call 905-527-7627 ext. 236 for tickets.