Welsh National Opera’s acclaimed revival of Falstaff, starring Bryn Terfel in the title role, is to be broadcast this Good Friday, 21 March at 7.45pm on S4C, as part of a unique three-year deal that will see the Welsh broadcaster air a total of four WNO productions.
Bass-baritone Bryn’s highly-praised performance as Falstaff is the star’s only operatic role in 2008. The sell-out opera, directed by Peter Stein and staged at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff earlier this month, was filmed for broadcast on S4C by Opus TF.
Opus TF also filmed a behind-the-scenes documentary, Falstaff: Tu Ôl i’r Llenni, which will be shown on S4C on Thursday, 20 March at 9.00pm. English and Welsh subtitles will be available on both the documentary and opera, performed in Italian.
Primarily an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, Falstaff is one of only two comedies among Verdi’s 26 operas. It was Verdi’s final opera, composed by the Italian when he was in his late 70s, and it poses a huge challenge to the singers.
Peter Stein explained, “The music is thought to be among the most complicated ever composed. It has a modern structure which demands a lot from the singers. Things must be solved within seconds as there’s no opportunity to build the emotion through the course of arias or long duets.”
Playing Falstaff is considered one of the most difficult roles for a bass baritone, but Bryn, who has previously played Falstaff at the Met in New York and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, loved the challenge.
He said, “Falstaff is one of the greatest ever masterpieces. He’s quite a character – energetic, fat and handsome. Falstaff is proud of his physical prowess, but his downfall is his pride and he falls for the bait time and time again.”
Fellow North Walian singer, tenor Rhys Meirion, Christopher Purves and Janice Watson star alongside Bryn in Falstaff, conducted by Carlo Rizzi with the WNO Chorus and Orchestra.
The behind-the-scenes documentary sheds light on the powerful creative relationship between Bryn and Peter Stein, who directed Bryn as young landowner Ford in a previous WNO production of Falstaff.
• S4C is available outside Wales on Sky 134. Falstaff and Falstaff: Tu Ôl i’r Llenni can also be viewed on-line at s4c.co.uk/watch for up to 35 days after the initial broadcast.
• The names of the other three operas will be announced in due course.