Taking in our first Met broadcast of the year, one thing I noticed was over the summer the Met had apparently gotten a skycam, and they weren’t tired of using it yet, though it wasn’t really practical for use during the performance, so they had to mostly use it during scene changes. But the main development and their main focus during the broadcast was the return of maestro James Levine, out with injury and illness for two years, now in a special seat and apparently not up to being interviewed live during the broadcast(instead they taped an interview beforehand), but nonetheless still able to conduct. Falstaff we were told was one of his favorites, and also not an easy opera to conduct at all, but he did the job very well.
Generally, indeed, everyone involved in Falstaff did their job well, though whether there were any standouts I am less certain. Perhaps Stephanie Blythe as Mistress Quickly a little bit, as we heard from her during her interview how when she was young she took over the role at the last minute, under Levine’s conducting of course, and it became a signature part for her. She wasn’t the only one singing a role associated with her; it is said noone else on Earth can do Falstaff as well as Ambrogio Maestri, and after watching him bound his way through the role I believe it. Although all the knocks on his weight included in abundance by Verdi don’t work quite as well when they’re being sung not only by Blythe, but by Angela Meade, who in contrast to others was singing against type as Alice Ford, and that wasn’t a problem for her, but she’s hardly thin either. Perhaps those lines could’ve done with being reduced, at least so the audience doesn’t start thinking the main characters are hypocrites.
The setting for the production was a technicolor version of the 50s with flashier surroundings and brighter colors than reality; it too worked pretty well for an exaggerated comedy, especially when it included Ford dressed in Texan cliche when disguising himself, though the final act seemed a little overly weird to the point that it interfered with the effectiveness of the climax. One fun interview during the intermission was with the props master, because there were a lot of props, especially with the high amount of eating all the characters did. Indeed, one of the running themes of the interviews was that Falstaff is an opera that is supposed to celebrate the pleasures of life, but I admit, I did not leave the theater with that impression.