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Full review of the Merry Wives of Windsor

28th February 2024 by

February 16th 2024 performance

Bristol Opera The Merry Wives Of Windsor as seen by Debi Weaver (NODA Southwest District 13/16) on Friday 16th February 2024

Director: Frazier Meakin     Musical Director: Arne Kovac

Associate Director: Annie Keith

The Merry Wives of Windsor” is a comedic opera by German composer Otto Nicolai, based on William Shakespeare’s play of the same name. Premiering in 1849, it tells the story of Sir John Falstaff, a roguish character from Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays, who tries to seduce two wealthy married women, Mistress Ford, and Mistress Page, in hopes of sexual satisfaction and financial gain. However, the clever wives outwit Falstaff, leading to humorous and farcical situations. Ultimately, Falstaff is humiliated, and the wives’ marriages are reaffirmed. The opera features lively and comedic music, capturing the spirit of Shakespeare’s original play and its humour and wit. Director Frazier Meakin developed a modern interpretation of this story, including amongst other things, mobile phones, selfies, and a King Charles t-shirt. Set in the fictional town of Windsor, the design and set was well thought out. The 18-piece orchestra led by Arne Kovac placed upstage, with a staircase leading up to a balcony with a wooden archway underneath and some simple flats and pillars. The space was very well utilised, with all possible entrances and exits used to maximum effect. The lighting design was extremely effective, vibrant, colourful, and well cued. There were moments when members of the cast faced upstage and I lost some of the words, but overall, the Sound was clear. Costumes/Hair and Make-up were all in keeping, enhancing the overall performance.

All the Principal performances were very strong with some stunning vocals. Mrs Ford (Sophie Kirk-Harris) and Mrs Page (Rebecca Chellappah) both gave very strong comedic performances with great physicality and facial expressions. Falstaff (John DesLauriers) your performance of the bumbling, sleazy, larger than life character made me laugh out loud at points (for the right reasons!!). Mr Ford (Robert Marson) you demonstrated the jealousy and inner turmoil of this character well. Mr Page (Roderick Hunt) I particularly enjoyed those beautiful tones in your voice. Anne Page (Jennifer Walker) and Fenton (Robert Felstead) a lovely pairing, with gorgeous vocals and some very funny moments. Dr Cajus (James Ward) and Slender (Steve Harris) again providing some very amusing moments. I enjoyed the “hiding” in the bushes and also well done for the incorporating of the boot and crutches, very well thought out and effective.

The Windsor’s, Hoy Polloi, Elves, and Spirits were all played with enthusiasm, showing their individual characters. I really liked all the activity in the Overture, and in the pub, lots to see and lots of individual stories going on. A highlight for me was seeing the youngsters fully incorporated into the production, so focused and clearly loving every minute. Their individual moments when tormenting Falstaff in Act 3 were great.

Bristol Opera dedicated this production to Graham Billing who died in July 2023 and who provided the translation for this performance and who directed, performed, and translated librettos for many productions previously.

Congratulations to all involved for a truly memorable and entertaining production. I heard many great comments from the audience as I left. Well Done all.


Any observation made by the reviewer can only be based on what he sees at the performance in question. The reviewer may have received information in advance of the performance, and it is inevitable that his assessment will be effected by that knowledge. The N.O.D.A. Representative’s intention is to give an objective critique of the overall production and in particular the performance viewed. It should be remembered that any review of this nature can only be objective as far as the techniques used during the performance observed. Any criticisms expressed may not have been valid at other performances, and are only made to encourage higher standards in Amateur Theatre. It is hoped that the audience’s appreciation of your efforts will have given everyone lift and encouraged you to greater achievements in the future and that the observations made by the reviewer will prove helpful in improving future productions.

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