Lyrical comedy in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi Performed in Italian with German surtitles
The ageing knight Sir John Falstaff is spending the twilight of his life in an inn. He and his two companions Bardolf and Pistol are leading a parasitic existence at the expense of the citizens of Windsor. Among these citizens is also Dr. Cajus whom Bardolf has relieved of his money during a drinking bout. Falstaff is speculating about a love affair with the two ladies Alice Ford and Meg Page with the intention of both ladies opening up the coffers of their wealthy husbands. He writes two identical letters to them. Bardolf and Pistol refuse to bear the letters to the ladies. Lecturing them on the doubtful value of honour, Falstaff chases them away. Alice and Meg are outraged at Falstaff’s letters. They want to teach the potbelly a lesson and confer with their neighbour Mistress Quickly on a plan. Meanwhile Ford too has been informed of Falstaff’s intentions by Bardolf and Pistol, and wishes to be certain of his wife’s relationship with the fat knight. Bardolf and Pistol return to Falstaff, apparently filled with remorse. They announce Mistress Quickly to him who delivers to Falstaff an invitation from Alice for the afternoon. Ford comes disguised as a certain ‘Fontana’ who is unsuccessfully wooing Alice. He flatters Falstaff and asks him to win Alice over so as to smooth his own path with her. Falstaff triumphantly announces that Alice is already waiting for him. Ford is enraged with jealousy. Alice and the neighbours make everything ready to receive Falstaff. Only Nannetta, Ford’s daughter, is sad. She is in love with Fenton but, at her father’s wish, is supposed to marry Dr. Cajus. Her mother promises to prevent this. Falstaff arrives and woos Alice. Mistress Quickly rushes up and raises the alarm. The enraged Ford is approaching. Ford storms his own house with a horde of armed neighbours. Falstaff hides in a large laundry basket. During their attack on the supposed adulterers, the gentlemen discover the lovers Fenton and Nannetta. Ford chases the young man out of the house. Alice has the laundry basket carried away and tipped into a ditch. Falstaff has fallen into a deep depression. A bottle of wine restores his spirits. Mistress Quickly brings a new message from Alice. Falstaff should come to Windsor Forest, by Herne’s Oak, a midnight. The ladies and gentlemen arrange a nocturnal masque with the intention of punishing Falstaff. Ford secretly promises Nannetta’s hand in marriage to Dr. Cajus but Mistress Quickly has overhead the conspiracy. The nocturnal atmosphere awakes the dreams of love of the young couple Nannetta and Fenton. Alice shows everyone to their places because Falstaff is already on his way. At midnight precisely, the Fairy Queen appears with her retinue. They find Falstaff and hand him over to a tribunal of spirits. Falstaff recognises the drunkard Bardolf and suddenly sees through the entire masquerade. Ford, however, experiences an unpleasant surprise. He announces a double marriage but as the masks fall, it is revealed that he has married Dr. Cajus to Bardolf. Alice presents to him the right lovers Fenton and Nannetta. Ford can no longer refuse to give his fatherly blessing to the young couple. The play comes to an end. Falstaff concludes that all the world’s a jest and only he who laughs last laughs longest.