The first performance of Falstaff by Antonio Salieri was held on the 3rd of January 1799 in Vienna. This harmonic work, perfectly musically and dramatically balanced, with its risky (on the edge of impropriety) jokes, which were in no way inferior to Le nozze di Figaro by Mozart, had tremendous success. The plot of The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare became an ideal foundation for a classical opera buffa with its traditional disguises and transformations, love affairs and the final repentance of glutton and libertine, Falstaff. (The latter is a tribute to the moral ideals of the time of the Enlightenment, at the end of Shakespeare’s comedy the main character avoids the punishment.) Salieri and his co-author Defranceschi were the first to choose this Shakespearian plot for an opera libretto.

Soon after the premiere, Falstaff was split into “hits” (one of the themes became the foundation of a variation by a young Beethoven). However, with the start of the century of Romanticism, along with other operas by Salieri, it was forgotten for decades. In the following century, music lovers associated this Shakespearian plot exclusively with the opera by Verdi. The revival of interest in Salieri’s Falstaff, as well as in his creative works in general, happened in the beginning of the 21st century. Nowadays, his Falstaff is presented in theatres of Munich, Toronto, Vienna…

On the Russian stage it appeared for the first time in 2021. It was precisely such operas which Boris Pokrovsky, the founder of the Chamber Musical Theatre, loved to reveal to his faithful audience. The work by the once renowned master is realised by the team headed by conductor Ivan Velikanov and director Alexander Khukhlin. The famous plot is recreated as an interpretation which reflects the psychology of modern society. Alexander Khukhlin is staging a story about Falstaff as an infantile and pure person who wants to know all that he has yet to try — dishes, drinks, relationships with women. This naïve Falstaff is «naturally an artist who just does not know it himself”. By disturbing the ceremonious order of a respected English suburb by his arrival, he drives its inhabitants into “an incredible frenzy”: from “the man in the cases”, they turn into adolescents. Whereas their joke on Falstaff in the finale of the opera turns into a “tough teenage prank”: “The rejuvenated heroes played out so much that they did not even realise at what point had they sacrificed and broken Falstaff, who had woken up youth in them” (the quotes belong to the director Alexander Khukhlin).