Verdi-Falstaff (Royal Opera) (2001)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 4-Dec-2001

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Opera Scene Selection Animation
Menu Animation
Featurette-James Naughtie Opera Synopsis
Featurette-Bernard Haitink Comment
Interviews-Cast & Crew-Bryn Terfel; Graham Vick
Featurette-Covent Garden Tales: The Backstage Crew
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 135:48 (Case: 157)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (72:08) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Graham Vick

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Bryn Terfel
Roberto Frontali
Kenneth Tarver
Robin Leggate
Peter Hoare
Gwynne Howell
Barbara Frittoli
Desiree Rancatore
Bernadette Manca di Nissa
Diana Montague
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $34.95 Music Giuseppe Verdi

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Italian Dolby Digital 4.0 L-R-LS-RS (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Verdi's last opera, finished eight years before his death, Falstaff was first performed in La Scala, Italy in 1893. His second comedy opera (the first was a flop), Falstaff is widely regarded as one of his finest works. Lacking the complexity or stirring overtures of Wagner, whose star was in its ascendancy at the time of Falstaff's  first performance, it nevertheless combines a flowing and delicate orchestral backdrop with the humanity and humour of the central players. The libretto, penned by poet-contemporary of Verdi, Arrigo Boito, masterly distils the essence of the Falstaff character from Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor and Parts 1 & 2 of Henry IV.

    This performance celebrated the re-opening of London's Royal Opera House at Covent Garden after a major upgrade of the backstage machinery. No longer having to rely on ropes and pulleys handled by an army of stage-hands, the new stage has scenery changes handled by computer controlled robotics (and the odd stage-hand when the computer stuffs up!!!) Taking lead role as Falstaff, Welsh baritone Bryn Terfel is supported by a strong cast and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House conducted by Bernard Haitink.

    Taking care to evoke the middle-age Italian atmosphere of the novellas, upon which Shakespeare based the Merry Wives of Windsor, director Graham Vick succeeds in conveying the bawdiness, viciousness and ultimately the comedy epitomised by Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

    The opera comprises three acts each with two scenes and for those unfamiliar with the tale an operatic synopsis is provided as an extra by BBC commentator James Naughtie. The opera opens with the bumbling, obese, flatulent Sir John Falstaff (Bryn Terfel), replete with whale sized beer-gut, berthed half-naked in bed in his bachelor pad in the local pub (The Garter Inn). Castigated for several misdemeanours by the landlord and local doctor, the penniless Falstaff hatches a plan to win the favour of two of the local ladies about town (aka rich b****es) by writing love letters and arranging a secret liaison with Alice Ford (Barbara Frittoli), the wife of  a local squire (Roberto Frontali). Falstaff's tryst is foiled and revenged by the ladies' counter-plots which ultimately leads to Falstaff being dumped into the local river in a laundry basket. Further evidence of female intrigue and vindictiveness is provided by the ladies again luring Falstaff to a site of further humiliation at a midnight rendezvous. He is persuaded to attend the site of a witches sabbat dressed as Herne the deer-headed god and then subsequently attacked by a posse of the Ford clan and followers, dressed as assorted nymphs, dryads and other mythical nasties. The aim of the exercise is to generally impress the overall superiority of women by way of superior intellect, integrity and moral fibre. Falstaff redeems his pride, in the finale, by pointing out that basically, without the baddies, such as himself, the morally and politically-correct superior gender would have no-one to crow over and take pride in putting down!

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The general quality of this video is superb and it presents a very clean, vibrant picture even on larger screens.

    The video is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16 x 9 enhanced.

    The transfer is very clear and sharp. There is good shadow detail in the main feature but quite severe low level noise and lack of detail in the audience viewed at the commencement of the Second Act.

    Colours were rich and bright and the primary hues of the set and costumes were well portrayed with no noticeable bleed.

    Aliasing was evident throughout the transfer, mostly of a minor nature, but occasionally was severe enough (eg conductor's lectern at 34:15 or ladies headgear at 18:53) to be irritating. There was edge enhancement visible around the headgear at 36:33 but this was not intrusive. Macro-blocking and a minor degree of posterization of the plain backdrops (eg 2:08) proved a minor distraction. Seemingly filmed on video, there were no film or film-to-video artefacts evident.

    The subtitles were sufficient to convey the meaning of the spoken Italian and are available in English, French and German.

    The RSDL transition change occurs at 72:08 and is short-lived though not particularly well placed.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The single audio track was of very good quality.

    There is a single audio track of the music and sung dialogue in Italian recorded in Dolby Digital 4.0 (L-R-LS-RS). Yep, quadraphonic sound is revived (!) with no centre channel nor sub-woofer support.

    The dialogue quality was excellent and even for this non-Italian speaker, words could be made out clearly and related to the English translation via subtitles.

    Audio sync was not a problem at all with this transfer, and was completely spot on.

    The surround channels were used sparsely, mostly for audience clapping and minimal reverberation. Occasionally, the strings were given a bit of an airing through the rear channels which didn't really fit in with the rest of the audio mix..

    Unless you play back this DVD via a digital link and your processor redirects low frequency effects, you won't hear anything from your subwoofer. (Or alternatively you might have a bass driver linked to your front main speakers via a high channel link). This omission isn't a problem in view of the light nature of Verdi's score but would be sorely missed from the Ring Cycle!.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    A small selection of extras are offered but these are of good quality and enhance the enjoyment of the opera.


    The animated menu is presented at 1.78:1. The scene selection feature is particularly nicely arranged into Acts and Scenes (six in all) with clips from the relevant section displayed in a windowbox.


    Introduction to the performance and succinct synopsis (3:54) of the opera, with appropriate still frames, presented by BBC commentator James Naughtie.

Interview with Bryn Terfel

    Four minute interview with the acclaimed Welsh baritone. You'd have a hard job picking him as Falstaff as the make-up (grey wispy locks and 10-tonne belly) is so good.

Interview with Bernard Haitink

    Conductor's appreciation (1:02) of the economical and masterful nature of Verdi's score

Interview with Graham Vick

   Director's perspective on the essence of the opera and its accurate present day portrayal.

Covent Garden Tales

   Behind the scenes look at the stage and set machinery pre and post renovation and upgrading.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Details on the Region 1 version of this DVD are scant, but other than a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack (which could well be exactly the same as the 4.0 L-R-LS-RS we have received), the discs appear similarly featured.


    Verdi: Falstaff is probably not the easiest to view for the operatic neophyte, but if you love opera and are prepared to sit down properly and view this seriously, with appropriate relief taken at intervals, you will love this high quality production from the BBC Classical Series.

    The video quality, though marred by a few MPEG artefacts was otherwise excellent

    The audio quality was very good.

    Overall, this is recommended for the opera fan. Others seeking entertainment should probably stick to The Mikado.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Lancaster (read my bio)
Saturday, February 23, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-900E, using RGB output
DisplayPioneer SD-T50W1 (127cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderDenon ACV-A1SE. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTheta Digital Intrepid
SpeakersML Aeon front. B&W LRC6 Centre. ML Script rear. REL Strata III SW.

Other Reviews
The DVD Bits - Damien M

Comments (Add) NONE