The heat this summer has been downright intolerable and most of the fancy folk have fled to the Berkshires, but Boston Midsummer Opera (BMO), as it does every July, has generously remained behind to offer respite to those of us left stranded in the city. Indeed, since 2006 BMO has been breaking the summer heat and garnering great acclaim (see here, here, and here) for affordable English language productions. Led by conductor and music director Susan Davenny Wyner, this summer’s production of Otto Nicolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, offers the potential for yet another summer success on July 24th, 26th, and 28th at BU’s Tsai Performance Center.
The opera is the second most famous setting of Shakespeare’s tale (the other is Verdi’s Falstaff) and the most successful comic opera composed in the first half of the 19th century. Nicolai first sought a production of his opera (Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor) in Vienna in 1845, but it was turned down. In 1849 he tried again in Berlin and the production was accepted and the premiere triumphant, initiating a period of continued international performance that continues even today. As a testament to the work, in a letter to John Sullivan Dwight for publication in Dwight’s Journal of Music (37/21), Hans von Bülow described Nicolai’s score in high terms:
Nor has my reverence for Shakespeare ever excited me to consider it a crime, in MM. Verdi and Taubert, for instance, to transfer Macbeth to music-paper, though I cannot help thinking that with his Lustige Weiber von Windsor (Merry Wives of Windsor) Otto Nicolai did the great Briton higher honor.
While Bülow wasn’t specific about the aspects of Nicolai’s score that he appreciated so much, the aspect of the work that attracted most contemporary critics’ attention had to do with its blending of German and Italian operatic styles. The Italian aspects of the score, Nicolai’s light touch in scoring, melody, comic style and vocal ornamentation, are synthesized effortlessly with the learned aspects of the German style and the melodramatic music for the highly romantic and fantastic ghosts and elves—it is Rossini meets Weber. Indeed, one expects that a comic opera with just a bit of the spooky should make for an excellent summer evening.
The production features Antonio Ocampo-Guzman, faculty of the Department of Theatre at Northeastern University, as Stage Director. There is a very interesting conversation between Davenny Wyner and Ocampo-Guzman on the opera here. Stephen Dobay returns to BMO for scenic design and Karen Perlo designs the lighting. Dancers from the Central Mass Dance Academy also make an appearance.
Dean Elzinga, bass-baritone [Mr. Ford]
Martha Guth, soprano [Alice Ford]
Jason Budd, bass [Falstaff]
Stephanie Kacoyanis, contralto [Meg Page]
Ricardo Lugo, bass [Mr. Page]
Sean Lair, senor [Slender]
Sara Heaton, boprano [Anne]
Alex Richardson, tenor [Fenton]
Stephen Humeston, bass-baritone [Dr. Cajus]
There will also be pre-performance talks by the Dean of Boston criticism, Richard Dyer, one hour before each curtain. The performances will be held July 24th and 26th at 7:30 PM, with a matinee on the 28th at 3 PM, all at the Tsai Performance Center, Boston University. Ticketing information is here.