"Antonio Salieri (1750-1825) was a thoroughly competent professional composer, despite his unfortunate fictitious reputation, perpetuated by Rimsky Korsakov and Peter Shaffer. His Falstaff is frankly populist in its aim, but has quite a few special effects in the orchestration, with solos for cello and clarinet. After a slowish start one gradually becomes involved in the considerable subtlety of the text, which is available in subtitled translations in several languages.
This production at the little rococo theatre in Schwetzingen Palace is ideal for home viewing. The sets are simplified but fully adequate to suggest the different scenes, the costumes are muted in colour and all the emphasis is upon inventive acting based on excellent teamwork and fine singing. John de Carlo as Falstaff gives a marvellous characterisation of this archetypal figure, who is easily inveigled to bounce back and hasten to another certain humiliation, for us to relish in anticipation and delivery. A cruel story about total denial of personal shortcomings and enduring confidence in certain reciprocation of his roving sexual fancies.
It is a joy to watch and the direction for stage (Michael Hampe) and for the TV cameras is ideal. The understatement of the stage picture benefits from the high quality of DVD screen viewing. In summary, it is an opera which looks good on screen and is far more enjoyable with vision than would be possible on CD.