This one is a triple finale. It’s the end of the 3rd act, the end of the opera, and the end of Verdi’s career as a composer of operas. Verdi had written only one comedy prior to Falstaff – Un Giorno di Regno in 1840. Thus 53 years separated it from Falstaff. Verdi’s final opera was the only one which he wrote for himself without regard as to how it would be received by its audience. This was the same composer who had told a younger colleague to pay no heed to the critics. “Look to the box office. The theater was meant to be filled.” But at age 80, a national icon and a rich one, as well, he could do as he wished.
Falstaff is full of inside jokes. The opera’s finale offers two. Tutto nel mondo è burla (All the world’s a joke) from the composer who had written melancholic or tragic endings to all his famous operas. And the ensemble is a fugue, the most learned of musical forms from the composer who had said he was not a learned composer, just an experienced one.
In preparing this piece, I listened to a lot of different conductors leading Verdi’s valedictory fugue. But none seemed as satisfying as Toscanini’s 1950 broadcast of the complete opera from which this excerpt is taken.
It took some time for Falstaff to find the same wide spread audience that Verdi’s other masterpieces quickly reached. But today’s audiences have figured out what Verdi was up to. The opera now ranks 30th on the list of the world’s most frequently performed works, according to Operabase.
Here is Verdi’s farewell to opera. The cast is below. Tutto nel mondo e burla
Arturo Toscanini , NBC Symphony Orchestra
John Carmen Rossi