National Theatre Presents Verdi's "Falstaff" - Its New Opera Production to Premiere Early in June

23 March 2023

To mark the beginning of work on a new show - the comic opera "Falstaff" by Giuseppe Verdi, conducted by Bojan Suđić and directed by Nebojša Bradić, which is scheduled to premiere early in June on the Main Stage, the presentation of the entire project was held in the Second Gallery foyer.

This will be the third production of that operatic masterpiece at the National Theatre in Belgrade, named after the eponymous protagonist from Shakespeare's "The Merry Wives of Windsor", according to the libretto by Arrigo Boito. 

During the presentation, director Bradić, maestro Suđić, set designer Geroslav Zarić and costume designer Marina Medenica spoke about this last opera of the famous Italian composer, which, according to the opinion of the most renowned musicians of the 19th century, was his best work.

Explaining what makes this opera comical, director Bradić said that it is "probably the fact that everyone in it keeps changing their clothes with the intention of disturbing some other person, or taking revenge, or playing a trick on their spouse or getting their hands on someone's wealth."

"This type of play is most often called a comedy of errors, which is also the case with some of Shakespeare's plays. The Merry Wives of Windsor, which were Verdi's main inspiration, also belong to this type. Comedy of confusion and errors - as a description of the genre, defines the essence and strikes the nerve of Falstaff the most, and precisely where it hurts the most: the title character, victims and opponents, impersonating someone else and disguised in back rooms and front yards, suggest that behind the chaos of confused identities the abyss of human imperfection lurks. The entire plot of Falstaff is about excessiveness: someone is too fat, another is too poor, a third one is too in love, a fourth is too jealous, and there are too many of those who are gullible, broken-down, too timid", Bradić said, who noted that the libretto of this opera jewel "relies in part" on two other Shakespeare’s plays, Henry IV and Henry V. 

 Bojan Suđić noted that "Falstaff" is a "very atypical ensemble opera" and pointed out that the vocal scores "are very demanding because they are written as anti-arias".

In his opinion, "they almost cannot be sung independently, if you do not accompany them all the time with continuous harmonic changes".

Maestro Suđić, who will again conduct the premiere performance of an opera at the National Theatre after 18 years, said he believed that "this ensemble will present Verdi's work at the highest artistic level."

Geroslav Zarić pointed out that as soon as he read the libretto, it was clear to him that "the key word is fraud".
"It is quite important for the interpretation of the whole story, both in the directorial and visual sense. In my work, I do not illustrate spaces, but I always look for a solution that is a symbol of the play. It often comes down to a single image that suggests to us various spaces and various states through transformation. The scenographic solution will also be in line with that on this occasion," Zarić said.

Marina Medenica announced that the costume will be modern, simplified, and "will have its own clear distinction, i.e. it will show the difference between people who are full of money and those who have titles but no money."

Apart from the soloists, Orchestra and Chorus of the National Theatre Opera ensemble, the artistic team will also include Edit Makedonska/Vesna Janssens (concertmasters), Đorđe Stanković (Choir leader), Isidora Stanišić (choreographer), Ana Grigorović (assistant director), Vladislava Cunnington (assistant set designer) ) and Ivana Mladenović (assistant costume designer).

Falstaff, the title character of this lyrical comedy, is a benevolent aging womanizer, a penniless knight and an eternal optimist. He is, at the same time, a real loner, who wants to be loved and who has built his own philosophy of life, saying: "The whole world is a farce, and man is born a fool."

Critics agree that such reflections on life, in which something existential emerges from something banal, is precisely what it shows Verdi's genius.

The opera "Falstaff" first premiered at the National Theatre on January 26, 1940, under the baton of Mirko Polič and directed by Erich Heckel, with Milan Pihler in the title role.

The next premiere was held on October 7, 1978. The orchestra was conducted by Dušan Miladinović, the director was Mladen Sabljić, and the title character was portrayed by Dušan Popović.