“A Cad’s Comic Comeuppance”
This alliteration advocate certainly appreciated the Met’s promotional tagline for the upcoming performance of Falstaff ! And on April Fools’ Day, it couldn’t have been more fitting. As the final opera of a venerable 79-year-old Giuseppe Verdi, Falstaff doesn’t follow in the steps of the slew of tragedies and dramas that emerged from Verdi’s pen. However, it’s an opera that is full of plucky delight and ebullient personality.
While the comedy, based on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, is set during the reign of Henry IV, Robert Carsen’s Met production places the opera in the 1950’s. This was brilliant. No part of the production conflicted with the concrete libretto and the stage flow felt natural to the circumstances. But really, the best part was the fashion ─ hands down !
For Fifties Falstaff, opportunities abounded for sumptuous styles. Everything from wide collars to houndstooth was on the table, but I favored Alice Ford’s lemon yellow dress worn during Act II while working her wiles on Falstaff in her Betty Crocker kitchen.
Simplicity 1459 was my chosen pattern because, although it wasn’t a carbon copy of Brigitte Reiffenstuel’s stage costume, it featured many of those retro details that make an outfit unmistakably 50’s: full skirt with crinoline petticoat, portrait neckline, covered buttons, and a cummerbund sash.
Finding an accurately matching yellow satin proved to be more difficult than expected. Samples turned out to be either too pale, too brash, or too exorbitantly priced for my tastes. Ultimately, I settled on a sample that seemed close to my vision. More than fiddling with shades of satin, another reality posed a problem with production. I now work a part-time job and my sewing time came down to the final 3 days before the opera. That’s right─ with 3 days before the performance, I had nothing to wear ! Can you imagine my stress ?
Sewing on the hooks and eyes of the sash the morning of the opera, my outfit was ready, but don’t look too closely at some of those seam finishes !
After a quick glance at the pattern envelope while writing this, I do believe I wore the cummerbund sideways. The opera wasn’t the only thing that was topsy-turvy on April Fools’ Day !
And that satin sample ? Well, the yardage that arrived turned out to be glaring in its intensity. Whether it was the same dye lot as the sample or not, I haven’t a clue. Its Crayola hue rendered my shoes a temperature mismatch, but who noticed ?
My mother styled my hair in a relaxed French twist, pearls were donned, and white gloves worn. Classic !
For just over 2 days worth of work, I was relatively pleased with my nifty Fifties dress, even laughing at times. Coincidentally, that adopted attitude corresponded with a main theme from the comedy. At the end of the opera, Falstaff and the cast of characters agree on one thing: “the whole world is nothing but a jest.”
Toi, Toi, Toi,
Cast and Credits
Falstaff ─ Giuseppe Verdi (1893)
Live in HD air date: April 1, 2023
Falstaff ─ Michael Volle
Alice Ford ─ Ailyn Pérez
Nannetta ─ Hera Hyesang Park
Meg Page ─ Jennifer Johnson Cano
Mistress Quickly ─ Marie-Nicole Lemieux
Fenton ─ Bogdan Volkov
Ford ─ Christopher Maltman
Conductor ─ Daniele Rustioni
Production ─ Robert Carsen
Set Designer ─ Paul Steinberg
Costumer Designer ─ Brigitte Reiffenstuel
Lighting Designers ─ Robert Carsen, Peter Van Praet
Revival Stage Director ─ Gina Lapinski
Live in HD Director ─ Habib Azar
Host ─ Ryan Speedo Green