The Falstaff diet? A knight without armour

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By Roger Snodgrass

TESUQUE, N.M. – The Santa Fe Opera’s new production of “Falstaff” opened the season Friday night with all the camp and circumstance befitting Giusseppe Verdi’s comic masterpiece, based on Shakespeare’s shameless, big-bellied rascal.

The Falstaff of the two-part “Henry IV,” called back for his own show in the “Merry Wives of Windsor, “has the patent on the role of the most deplorably loveable, gluttonous reprobate of all time.

The SFO’s choice of “Falstaff,” first performed in 1893 at La Scala in Milan, bows to the demand of its festival format that relies on the tried and true to balance a few daring departures into the new and the not seen for awhile.

This year’s production of “Falstaff” has much of that going for it, as a new version of a highly popular opera that also hasn’t been done here since 2001.

The 2008 version has only one problem worth mentioning and getting out of the way immediately if possible, which is to say that Falstaff is not fat enough. Even with a fat suit and fat make-up with a fat nose and his excellent imitation of wide-body behavior, Laurent Naouri is too skinny. What a voice the French baritone has, but his fat suit needs a fat suit.

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