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The Comic Misadventures of Shakespeare's Portly Knight of Windsor


In honor of Verdi’s 200th birthday, LA Opera presents a new production of the crowning glory of the composer’s magnificent career, his comic masterpiece Falstaff. LA Opera Music Director James Conlon, praised internationally for his mastery of Verdi, conducts this unabashed celebration of Merrie Olde England’s lusty days and bawdy nights, starring Italian baritone Roberto Frontali. When Shakespeare’s portly knight of Windsor hatches a plot to improve his love life by courting two different married women, he launches a flood of comic chaos and romantic misadventure.

(For information about the November 26 concert performance of Falstaff at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, click here.)

Click here to read the program.



There are currently no upcoming performances.


Setting: Windsor, England, during the reign of Henry IV (1399-1413)

Act One
At the Garter Inn, after a run-in with Dr. Caius, Falstaff discovers that he doesn’t have enough money to pay for his dinner. To support the expanding kingdom that is his paunch, he settles on seducing Alice Ford and Meg Page, wives of two of Windsor’s wealthiest gentlemen. His thieving sidekicks, Bardolph and Pistol, refuse to deliver love letters to the women, so Falstaff dismisses them and has a page do it instead.

Alice and Meg compare the letters as they relax in the garden by Ford’s house, noticing that the notes are identical. They decide to play a little joke on the fat knight. As the women leave, Dr. Caius, Bardolph, Pistol and Fenton arrive with Ford, who is getting an earful about what a trickster and scoundrel Falstaff is. Pistol tells Ford about the fat knight’s plan to dishonor Alice and empty her husband’s coffers, so Ford decides to go to the inn in disguise and catch Falstaff. Meanwhile, the ladies enlist Mistress Quickly to lure Falstaff into their own trap. Whenever they can steal a moment, Fenton and Nannetta, the Fords’ daughter, enjoy a clandestine kiss.

Act Two
Back at the inn, Quickly brings Falstaff a response from the two ladies. Both return his affections, but only Alice can meet him, any afternoon between two and three, while her husband is out. Bardolph informs Falstaff that a “Mister Brook” (Ford in disguise) wishes to make the knight’s acquaintance and give him a good bottle of wine. “Brook” tells Falstaff that he has fallen in love with Alice and promises the knight a sack of gold for seducing her, explaining that if she slips once, she’ll most likely slip again. Falstaff happily accepts the challenge. Indeed, he admits, he is well along with his own plan to cuckold Alice’s husband.

Quickly returns to Ford’s house to tell Meg and Alice that Falstaff has taken the bait. Nannetta laments that her father plans to marry her off to old Dr. Caius. Servants enter with a basket of dirty linen, while the ladies prepare their trap by setting up a screen between the basket and the fireplace. Falstaff arrives, but the rendezvous is interrupted when he and Alice hear Ford approaching. Falstaff hides behind the screen while Ford, Dr. Caius, Bardolph and Pistol search for him. Believing that Falstaff is hiding behind the screen, Ford throws it aside only to discover his daughter and Fenton. Infuriated, he and the rest of the men rush off. Alice summons the servants to deal with the laundry. They struggle with the basket but finally manage to dump it, and Falstaff, into the Thames River.


Act Three
Outside the inn, Falstaff drowns his sorrows in wine. Quickly arrives and convinces him that Alice wants to meet him at midnight in Windsor Park, but he has to come dressed as a fairy-tale character, the Black Huntsman. Hidden behind a house, the husbands, wives, and others overhear the conversation, and Quickly arrives just in time to hear Ford plotting the doctor’s marriage to Nannetta.

At the park that night, the wives make some costume changes to foil Ford’s marriage plans for Nannetta. Midnight approaches, and Falstaff enters wearing antlers on his head and wrapped in a huge black cloak. His encounter with Alice is interrupted, this time by the assembled company disguised as spirits. They torment Falstaff and force him to repent, but recognizing Bardolph in the midst of the revelry, Falstaff realizes that he has been duped yet again. Ford announces that, to end their festivities, they shall celebrate the marriage of the Fairy Queen. Dr. Caius steps forward and takes the hand of the Queen, believing her to be Nannetta. Another masked couple also approaches to take their vows. Only afterward is it revealed that the Queen was Bardolph and that Fenton and Nannetta were the masked couple. Ford accepts the situation, and the opera closes with a mighty fugue praising the hilarity of life.


Two hours and 40 minutes, including one intermission.
Evening performances: 7:30-10:10pm (approximately)
Matinee performances: 2:00-4:40pm (approximately)

News & Reviews


  • Falstaff

    LA Opera: November 07, 2013

    In this edition of LA Opera Behind the Curtain, host Brian Lauritzen visits with Music Director James Conlon to discuss Giuseppe Verdi's final opera, "Falstaff" - his only successful comedy. It's a work that has been part of Mr. Conlon's personal life from the beginning of his career.
  • Falstaff

    LA Opera: November 15, 2013

Pre-performance lectures are generously sponsored by the Flora L. Thornton Foundation and the Opera League of Los Angeles.


Roberto Frontali as Falstaff


Pre-Performance Talks

Get the full story by joining other opera-goers at our complimentary pre-opera talks in the Eva and Marc Stern Grand Hall of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. One hour before every performance of Falstaff, LA Opera's acclaimed Music Director James Conlon will present an entertaining and informative talk on Verdi's final comic masterpiece. These talks are free of charge to everybody attending the performance, and no reservations are required.

More info