Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre

Here comes Sir John, wide of girth, broad of humour, and bold in his desires.

Here come some coney-catching rascals, fond of a tankard of beer.

Here come two merry wives with keen wits and cunning plans.

And here come the young folk, true of heart and fair of song.

Who will look after this colourful mess of characters? Fear not, they are are in good hands, for Verdi, the master dramatist, will out-Shakespeare Shakespeare in this late, great comedy. Don't forget: he who laughs last, laughs longest.

Verdi wrote Falstaff at the ripe old age of 77, and he brought to it a lifetime of stagecraft and a profound love of Shakespeare. He had already taken inspiration from Macbeth and Otello, and toyed with the idea of creating an opera based on King Lear, but he had never tried Shakespearean comedy. It was to be his final masterpiece.

The jokes fly, the fairies dance and the music captures the emotions that words alone miss. Read the story.

Enjoy dinner before the performance at Arts Centre Melbourne's Tram Bar

Allow us to make your dinner reservation: 6pm at Arts Centre Melbourne's Tram Bar.

For $55, enjoy a three-course Italian menu including matched wine. Simply add dinner to your cart after selecting your tickets for Falstaff.


Conductor Christian Badea
Director Simon Phillips
Set Designer Iain Aitken
Costume Designer Tracy Grant Lord
Lighting Designer Nick Schlieper
Falstaff Warwick Fyfe
Alice Ford Jane Ede
Ford Michael Honeyman
Nanette Taryn Fiebig
Fenton Jonathan Abernethy
Mistress Quickly Dominica Matthews
Meg Page Jacqueline Dark
Dr Caius Graeme Macfarlane
Bardolfo Kanen Breen
Pistola Jud Arthur

Orchestra Victoria

Opera Australia Chorus

Running time: 2 hours & 50 minutes, including two 20-minute intervals

The StoryHide

He's old, he's rotund, he's broke, but Sir John Falstaff isn't the kind of man to let any of that get in the way of a good time.

Unpaid bar tab? No problem! A timely seduction of two rich wives can solve that!

Unluckily for Falstaff, the wives are as rich in wits as they are in cash, and our fat knight is about to discover that the one who laughs last, laughs longest.

Not afraid of spoilers? Read the full synopsis.

Act I

Scene i.  The Garter Inn

Sir John Falstaff is drinking at the Inn. Dr Caius enters, accusing Falstaff of breaking into his house. He also accuses Falstaff’s henchmen, Bardolph and Pistol, of getting him drunk the previous evening and robbing him. Falstaff dismisses Caius and reprimands his servants for their ineptitude in the carrying out of the crime – 'One should steal discreetly,' he tells them. Falstaff then confides in them his interest in two local wives – Alice Ford and Meg Page – and asks Bardolph and Pistol to deliver letters for him. They refuse, claiming it is against their honour. Falstaff sends the letters with a page and delivers an ironic lecture on the matter of ‘honour’.

Scene ii. The Market Place

Meg Page and Mistress Quickly meet with Alice Ford and her daughter Nannetta. Falstaff’s letters have arrived and the four women devise a plan to teach Falstaff a lesson. Alice’s husband is visited by Bardolph and Pistol. They tell him of Falstaff’s plan to seduce Alice and he is overcome with jealousy. The wives perfect their plan. Mistress Quickly will be a go-between and arrange a rendezvous for Alice and Falstaff. Ford, unaware of the women’s plans, decides to call on Falstaff under a false name in an attempt to find out more about the knight’s lecherous intentions. Both Caius and Fenton (Nannetta’s secret lover) offer to assist him in his plan.

Act II

Scene i. Inside the Garter Inn

Mistress Quickly arrives with messages for Falstaff from Alice and Meg. Falstaff learns that Alice’s husband is out each afternoon between two and three. Mistress Quickly leaves and Ford is announced as ‘Mr Brook’. Ford gives Falstaff a bag of gold to encourage him and asks for his help in courting Alice. Falstaff tells Ford of his planned rendezvous with Mistress Ford and assures him that he will smooth the way for ‘Brook’ as well. Falstaff goes off to dress. Ford denounces the faithlessness of women and swears revenge.

Scene ii. Inside Ford’s house

The wives are ready for Falstaff. They plan to trap him in a large basket of soiled clothes. They learn that Ford intends Caius should marry Nannetta, and they resolve to thwart this plot as well. Falstaff arrives and courts Alice. Their trick backfires, however, when Ford actually arrives; as he, Dr Caius, Bardolph and Pistol search the house, the women encourage Falstaff to hide in the basket. When Ford returns he discovers Fenton and Nannetta behind a screen.  In the ensuing confusion Alice calls for the servants to empty the basket into the River Thames.


Scene i. The jetty behind the Garter Inn

Falstaff crawls ashore and calls for mulled wine. He laments the state of the world. Mistress Quickly arrives with a letter from Alice. He is directed to go to Windsor Park disguised as the Black Huntsman, and to wait for Alice near Herne’s Oak. Again he falls into the trap. The women and Fenton plan the details of their evening’s fun, and Ford and Dr Caius plot to arrange Caius’ marriage to Nannetta.

Scene ii. Windsor Park

At Herne’s Oak Fenton and Nannetta are joined by the women. Falstaff arrives at midnight and begins to court Alice, but Meg cries out that the fairies are coming. Everyone enters disguised as fairies and goblins, and a terrified Falstaff falls to the ground. They abuse Falstaff until he begs for mercy and promises to mend his ways.  When Bardolph’s disguise slips Falstaff discovers the trick. Meanwhile the women have taken advantage of the disguises in an intrigue to assist Nannetta and Fenton. Inadvertently Ford unites them in marriage but when they unmask he relents and blesses the union. All agree with Falstaff that man should enjoy his folly – that the whole world is but a joke.

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