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Falstaff - Opera North Review

Reviewed by Mark Johnson
Disclaimer: ticket was gifted in return for an honest review.

As part of their Green Season Opera North are touring three productions together. Playing alongside Puccini’s La rondine and Purcell’s Masque of Might is Verdi’s Falstaff, a comic opera based on Shakespeare’s larger than life character.

Kate Royal as Alice Ford, Henry Waddington as Falstaff and Isabelle Peters as Nannetta with members of the Chorus of Opera North. Photo by Richard H Smith.

Verdi’s Falstaff condenses Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives Of Windsor with a little of Henry IV to tell the central tale of Falstaff and his comedic mishaps as he sets about trying to seduce the married Alice Ford and Meg Page sending them both identical letters.

Many of the characters or strands of Shakespeare’s original text are slim lined or cut altogether - there is no Mr Page or Master Slender here. This allows for greater focus on the central strands of the story and overall quite a slick fast moving production directed by Olivia Fuchs.

Verdi’s luscious score is so tremendously played by an orchestra under conductor Garry Walker. The sound they create is magnificent throughout, rarely do you see or hear an orchestra of this size on a touring piece and it’s a delight to hear them.

Taking on the role of Falstaff is an outstanding Henry Waddington. His delivery of the role is truly world class. Conveying both humour and the down troddedness required for the role with ease. Waddington isn’t afraid to throw himself full into the role and it pays off. His vocal delivery is excellent too.
Kate Royal impresses as Alice Ford, mischievously scheming alongside Helen Évora’s Meg Page. Isabelle Peters shows her rising star credentials as a delectable Nannetta, matching well with Egor Zhuravskii’s Fenton. The relationship they create is warming to watch develop. 

Kate Royal as Alice Ford, Louise Winter as Mistress Quickly, Helen Évora as Meg Page and Isabelle Peters as Nannetta. Photo by Richard H Smith.

Richard Buckhard deliciously plays Ford with the right amount of rage and determination as he plots his own plans with Falstaff to prove his wife is being unfaithful - which of course she isn’t. His powerful vocals are crystal clear and great to listen to. 

Credit must go to all the company, who act and sing with skill that shows why Opera North are such a leading company. The company which largely are used in the final Windsor Park scene all add superbly to the production.

The Green Season for Opera North sees the company use shared scenic elements acids the three productions meaning they reduce resources and helping to reduce the companies carbon footprint - the company aims to be carbon neutral by 2030. This does  not however mean the production lacks in terms of its outstanding design. 

Set designer Leslie Travers creates a visual feast for the eyes with varying props and set pieces. Falstaff’s caravan is a thing of rustic beauty and is cleverly used. There’s impressive use of antlers which are taken from the grounds of Harewood House brought together for that final Windsor Park scene. Costume designer Gabrielle Dalton also uses the resources well with period outfits combining with more modern garments. 

The production is sung in English although having a knowledge of the text allowed me to enjoy this production without necessarily worrying about understanding every word, there is a helpful synopsis in the programme if you’re not au fait with the piece. The use of titles further helps the audiences understanding. Though not every line is titled. There too are a few lulls in the piece but it generally passes at great pace.

Whether this is a first opera or you’re a seasoned opera connoisseur you’ll find great enjoyment with this production. It’s full of colourful characters, humour and a wonderful score of music. This is world-class opera being performed on tour. You’re guaranteed to leave with a smile on your face. 


Falstaff plays alongside La rondine and Masque of Might at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal until Saturday 11th November 2023. Tickets are available from All three productions will then play at Salford’s Lowry Theatre from the 15th until 18th November. Tickets are available from You can find out about Opera North’s work including their Spring 2024 program on their website

Photo by Richard H Smith

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