Lyrical comedy in three acts
Libretto by A. Boito
Sir John Falstaff
Ford, Alice’s husband
Servants of Falstaff
Mistriss Alice Ford
Nannette, Alice’s daughter
Mistress Meg Pejd
The owner of the tavern “Garter”
Townspeople and people. Servants of Ford. Disguised as spirits, fairies, wizards, etc.
Action period: the reign of King Henry IV of England (early 15th century).
In the tavern “Garter”, old Sir John Falstaff slowly sips his wine. With threats, Dr. Kayus rushes in, who was seized and robbed the day before. But dexterous rascals and loafers Pistol and Bardolph, playing off and pretending, play innocent simpletons. The duped Cayus is forced to get away with nothing. However, the business of drinking companions out of hand is bad. The purse of fat John is empty. He writes letters to two notable ladies – Alice Ford and Margarita Pejd, hoping for their location and the key to the ticket office. Servants refuse to participate in this dishonest undertaking. A page was sent with the notes.
In the garden of Mr. Ford there are funny gossips: Alice and Meg. Women with laughter and mockery quote the refined message of Falstaff, received by both, and decide to play a trick on the unlucky knight, to amuse yourself with pleasure over “Fat freak, a barrel of beer” Alice is ready to schedule an appointment, entice an elderly lover and fool. The servants of Falstaff open their master’s plans to the jealous Ford. An angry spouse decides to establish supervision over his wife and enter into trust in the old rake, introducing himself under an assumed name. So there is a double conspiracy, in which only the daughter of Ford Nannett and Fenton, absorbed in their love, do not take part.
Suspecting nothing, Falstaff sings a sherry in a tavern. Appears Quikley with a commission from Mistress Ford: at the hour when her husband leaves the house, the beauty will look forward to seeing Falstaff. His lovely greetings are sent by the beautiful Meg – she was also captivated by Sir John. Kvikli’s complaisance brings Falstaff into raptures, he is immensely pleased with himself. Under the name of Fontana, Ford treats Falstaff with excellent wine. The old knight is touched and ready to fulfill any request of the guest. Fontana, as an unoccupied person, rich, gives Falstaff a tight, stuffed purse, urging him to help seduce Alice, whom he allegedly has long and hopelessly in love with. Gifts unleashed the language of Sir John. He confidently reports that he is just now going on a date to Alice and showering ridicule of her cuckold husband. Ford is furious, it seems to him, that two terrible horns press his head. But he takes possession of himself and hand in hand with the dressed Falstaff leaves the tavern.
In the house of Ford, Alice and Meg mock at the old Falstaff. Quicli says that their plan was a success and represents a meeting with a fat man in faces. Not only Nannett laughs: her father decided to marry her to Dr. Caius. A new wave of caustic ridicule and threats at the address of unreasonable men accompanies preparations for a meeting with Falstaff: brought a large basket, placed screens. Alice takes the lute in her hands – and the gay conspirators take up the previously planned positions. Not suspecting the trap Falstaff enters, humming gaily. His cheeky tone, love attacks cleverly parried by Alice. From behind the door, Quicley’s voice rings, warning of the appearance of Meg. Falstaff hides the zashirms. Meg, gasping for barely restrained laughter, tells of the terrible jealousy of Ford. But the invention, which was supposed to scare the hidden John, suddenly turns out to be true – in an office with a crowd of servants breaks an angry spouse. He orders to search the whole house. The old knight has to get into the laundry basket, and Fenton and Nannette occupy his place behind the screens: the general turmoil does not in the least interfere with their passionate confessions.
It was stuffy and crowded with Falstaff in his sanctuary, but even more unpleasant was the denouement: at the behest of Alice the aged donjuan was thrown out with dirty laundry from the window into a dirty ditch. A miserable sight is a shamed lover – Windsor scoffers mock at him from the heart.
Again Falstaff in his usual place in the tavern “Garter”. He can not at all resign himself to the disgrace that befalls him, remembering with a shudder about the cold muddy bath. But the warmed wine and the affectionate sun give him back his former gaiety. The state of light intoxication inflames his fantasy, and Falstaff gives himself up to bacchic dreams. The sudden appearance of Quicli brings him out of emotional balance. The clever messenger quickly manages to soften his anger – she is sent with a letter from Alice, who asks to forgive him for what happened and appoints a meeting at midnight at the oak Herne in the park. Alice, Ford, Nannett, Caius look with curiosity from around the corner – will the new trick succeed? But the gullible Falstaff, and this time, trusts the fables of Quichele. She tells an old legend about how the black hunter Guern hanged himself on an old oak tree, and now there at night all evil spirits gather. But Falstaff is not afraid of ghosts and is ready to come at the appointed time.
After dressing in costumes of fairies, sylphs, goblins and woodpeckers, gay conspirators and their friends gather in Windsor Park. Exactly at midnight, an old oak appears wrapped in a broad cloak, with reindeer horns on the head of the restless Falstaff. The passionate zeal of confession gives way to chilling fear – Meg’s voice ushered in the strange creatures that filled the park. Falstaff falls to the ground in horror – whoever sees the fairies, immediately dies. Fanciful lights flash through the forest, the noise of rattles, rattles. Spirits and nymphs, devils and vampires surround the defeated John, beat and pinch him, forcing him to repent of all sins. Having satered at ease, they take off their masks – at last Falstaff realized that he was again trapped. Ford decides to complete the successful masquerade with the wedding of Nannette and Caius. But the cunning of women engaged Nannett and Fenton. Old John is pleased, that not only he is fooled. A good joke is always to the liking of a glorious knight: after all, he laughs the one who laughs last.