Tel Aviv Opera House
There is much that was amusing in the Kirov Opera's performance of Falstaff, hosted by the Israel Opera - and that is as it should be.
Kirill Serebrenikov and Nikolai Simonov attempted a modern direction with modern sets. A bathtub and shower took the modern approach somewhat farther than necessary, though.
The stage looked neutral, however, avoiding conservatism. Entertaining, sometimes sophisticated gimmicks, were abundant, and the spirits, witches and devils were enchanting and cute more than frightening.
Director Serebrenikov unjustifiably added a macabre touch to this commedia lyrica by killing the good-humored, guiltless Falstaff at the unhappy end, betraying both Verdi and his source, Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor.
In the title role, Viktor Chernomortsev was a real comic talent. His sonorous, low-timbred baritone represented a slightly Russianized Falstaff.
A highlight of the performance was baritone Vassily Gerello's Ford. His jealousy aria was dramatic, thoroughly convincing and forcefully impressive.
Among the female roles, Larissa Diadkova as Mrs. Quickly, was particularly outstanding. Her rich, low mezzo-soprano was reminiscent of a female bass in a nuns' choir of a Russian convent.
Tatiana Pavlovskaia's bright, clear soprano personified a credibly seductive Alice Ford. As Nanneta, Olga Trifonova's appealing soprano made one understand why Fenton, represented by Andrei Ilyushnikov's lyrical tenor, should have fallen in love with her.
Conductor Asher Fisch, who substituted at short notice for the indisposed Valery Gergiev, deserves respect and appreciation for a spirited rendition by the Kirov Orchestra of the Marinsky Theater.