The new production of Verdi’s opera “Falstaff” at the Salzburg Festival this year is heavily inspired by two films by American director and actor Orson Welles: “Falstaff” from 1965 and “The Other Side of the Wind,” a satirical film from the Hollywood director planning his comeback. The whole thing is a game with the game, “That’s why you end with a fugue,” conductor Ingo Metzmacher granted insight into the production on Tuesday.
“When you read the libretto, there’s an incredible confusion,” director Christoph Marthaler told the media somewhat ambiguously. “I decided to make it even more crazy because you don’t understand less – maybe then you’ll understand more.” Everything in this world is a farce, “I agree,” he smiled. The libretto by Arrigo Boito is based on William Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, including scenes from Henry IV.
There will be a director on stage, a kind of Orson Welles character, “doubling the Falstaff character,” said Malt Obeneuf. “These are interesting processes that fascinate us.” Given the many actors pursuing many goals, “there is an implosion, people are moving.”
People organize themselves, said Marthaler, this is actually the conspiracy. “The story is cliché and a bit absurd.” It’s a very elitist society, made up of very bored people. “I can relate to that. And the music is amazing, it tells an incredible amount.” A piece sticking out radically from the ends of the joint in a fugue. Falstaff is more serious than people imagine, he’s not some fat guy trying to show off. “We do not care”.
The stage design reflects Welles’ films, the double play, and the open positioning of the characters introducing each other. It depicts different rooms and movie settings in the style of outdoor studios in California. Anna Fiebrock, traditionally responsible for stage and costumes at Marthaler, is thinking of a kind of triptych, she explains. Bessel is in the middle of the stage. The Renaissance furniture comes from the shop “working on a movie set.”
The film studio is reminiscent of the Italian Cinecitta studios or the abandoned MGM studios in Hollywood, where Orson Welles is said to have filmed it due to lack of money. “We bring in a camera crew that handles the cameras, but it doesn’t actually record them. We don’t watch the movie,” said Vebroek. In the third act, the movie studio opens up, and maybe everything gets even more confusing. The director added that the question also arises whether the movie studio complex belongs to the movie Falstaff or to another movie.
Metzmacher, conducting Falstaff for the first time, is convinced that Verdi enjoyed composing this opera. “Music feeds the soul of Falstaff. Verdi enjoyed writing nonsense.” Fugue is the goal and core of everyone. Metzmacher described the music as “solitaire”. It was “in a way a definitive piece” for Verdi. “He knew it was the last. He put it all in.”
(Service: Giuseppe Verdi: “Falstaff” at the Salzburg Festival at the Grosses Festspielhaus. Conductor: Ingo Metzmacher, Director: Christoph Marthaler. Premiere August 12th. Other performances August 16th, 20th, 23rd, 25th and 30th. www.salzburgerfestspiele.at)
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