The Santa Fe Opera

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July 16-August 25, 2022

All the world’s a joke and only the jolly are wise!

Someone needs to teach the pompous Sir John Falstaff a lesson and who better to do it than four cunning women? Alice Ford, her daughter Nannetta, Meg Page and Mistress Quickly band together in this boisterous comedy to teach Sir John that he who laughs last, laughs best.

Based on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, Verdi’s famous comedic masterpiece comes to life in an exciting, new production by Sir David McVicar.

Follow along as Alice, Nannetta, Meg and Quickly put the infamous Falstaff in his place.

¡Todo en el mundo es una broma y solo los alegres son sabios!

Alguien necesita darle una lección al presumido Sir John Falstaff y ¿quién mejor para hacerlo que cuatro mujeres astutas? Alice Ford, su hija Nannetta, Meg Page y la ama de casa Quickly se unen en esta escandalosa comedia para enseñarle a Sir John que el que ríe al último, ríe mejor.

Basada en Las alegres comadres de Windsor de Shakespeare, la famosa ópera cómica de Verdi cobra vida en esta nueva y emocionante producción por Sir David McVicar.

Sigue a Alice, Nannetta, Meg y Quickly para ver como ponen al infame Falstaff en su lugar.

Music By
Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto By
Arrigo Boito
Sung In
Instant Translation Screen
English and Spanish
Production Support Generously Provided By
The Wyncote Foundation, as recommended by Frederick R. Haas & Rafael Gomez
Robert & Ellen Vladem
Production Illustration By
Benedetto Cristofani


  • Act I

    Part 1. The Garter Inn. Sir John Falstaff is writing letters at his desk when Doctor Caius bursts in, accusing Falstaff of breaking into his house and abusing his servants. Then he accuses Falstaff’s cronies, Bardolph and Pistol, of getting him drunk and picking his pockets. Pistol threatens the Doctor, and Falstaff tells him now would be a good time to leave.

    Falstaff complains that his prodigal retainers have emptied his coffers. He has a plan to court the wives of two wealthy merchants, Mistress Ford and Mistress Page, who he believes hold the purse-strings of their respective households. Having written identical love letters to both, he gives one each to Bardolph and to Pistol to deliver. They refuse. Bardolph claims his honor forbids him. Falstaff sends a page off with the letters and lectures the two men on the subject of honor.

    Part 2. The gardens of Ford’s house. Mistress Meg Page and Mistress Quickly meet Mistress Alice Ford and Mistress Nannetta coming out of the garden. Meg and Alice are amazed to discover they have received identical love letters from Sir John Falstaff. They resolve to avenge themselves publicly–and merrily.

    While Ford goes walking with Caius, who is to marry his daughter Nannetta (who is in love with young Fenton), Bardolph and Pistol betray their master by telling Ford that Falstaff is after his wife.

    The women come back to begin plotting. Everyone leaves except Fenton and Nannetta, who seize the moment for a kiss. The men reappear; they and the women make their respective plans.

  • Act II

    Part 1. At the Garter. Bardolf and Pistol, feigning contrition, introduce Mistress Quickly. She pays her respects to Sir John and reports on Alice Ford, whose husband is always gone from two to three o’clock. Meg Page, she says, will be harder to seduce since her husband is nearly always home.

    Ford, disguised as Master Fontana (a.k.a. Brook in Shakespeare) arrives to visit Falstaff, with a jingling purse in hand. He professes a passion for Mistress Ford, but doubts his potential success with her. If she could fall first for the more experienced Falstaff, perhaps she could then fall for him. Falstaff accepts the commission, assuring Brook that he will soon be in her arms. When Falstaff goes to change into his courting clothes, Ford vents his shock and jealousy. Falstaff returns, they argue over who shall pass first through the doorway, and they leave arm in arm.

    Part 2. A room in Ford’s house. Alice, Meg and Quickly prepare the reception Sir John deserves. When Nannetta doesn’t join in the women’s laughter, it is revealed that her father plans to marry her off to the old pedant Doctor Caius, while it is Fenton she loves. Alice tells her daughter not to worry. A large laundry basket is brought in, full of dirty linen. Quickly goes to keep watch for Falstaff’s arrival, Meg waits outside the door, Nannetta hides, and Alice settles herself in a chair and strums a lute. Sir John enters, bent on seduction, and singing of when he was a lithe lad. Soon Quickly enters, announcing a distraught Meg, who says she has seen a furious Ford roaming in search of his wife. Falstaff is hidden behind a screen. Ford, Fenton, Caius, Bardolph, Pistol and others burst in. Ford dumps out the basket’s contents, suspecting Falstaff is hiding in there. When the men move on to other parts of the house, Meg, feigning shock at Falstaff’s presence, helps Alice and Quickly (barely) conceal him in the basket. Suddenly Ford re-enters and knocks down the screen, only to find Nannetta and Fenton, who have used the time to their own sweet advantage. Frenetic Ford rushes out again and Alice orders the basket to be lifted and dumped out the window into the brook below. When the search party enters yet again, Alice laughingly leads her husband to the window to see his “rival” spluttering downstream.

  • Act III

    Part 1. The Garter. Love loves mystery… Falstaff is recovering with a glass of hot wine. Quickly brings him a letter from Alice inviting him to appear at the Great (haunted) Oak of Herne at midnight, disguised as the Black Hunter of Herne. He sputters his frustration at the day’s events, but soon he reads with growing interest. Alice, Meg, Nannetta, Ford, Caius and Fenton all spy to see whether he’ll fall into this new trap. Then everyone disperses to prepare their costumes–but not before Quickly overhears Ford telling Caius to dress as a monk so that Ford can find him and Nannetta to marry them during the revels. Quickly hurries to warn Nannetta and Alice.

    Part 2. Herne’s Oak, Windsor Park. Midnight. Fenton sings of his love. Nannetta arrives. Alice and Quickly tell Fenton to disguise himself as a monk. Falstaff approaches, shivering in his cloak, and sporting enormous antlers. Alice runs to him and tells him Meg is following her. Meg’s voice is heard saying she’s being followed by witches. Falstaff hears fairy-songs and throws himself to the ground, knowing the sight of the spirit world can mean death. Nannetta enters as the Fairy Queen, leading a troupe of children dressed as imps, nymphs and sprites. They cry out to discover a mortal on their grounds and they set to kicking and punching him. During the roughhousing, Bardolph loses his mask and Falstaff recognizes him and realizes he is the object of a grand joke. Ford asks him who’s wearing the horns now. Quickly takes Bardolph aside to cover him in a woman’s gown and veil. Everyone unmasks, and Ford calls for the nuptials to begin. Alice brings another masked and veiled couple before him and asks for a double wedding. After he has blessed both pairs it is revealed that he has married Fenton to Nannetta and Doctor Caius to Bardolph. Falstaff asks Ford who’s the dupe now. Nannetta asks her father’s forgiveness. Ford gives her his blessing and invites everyone to supper. Falstaff leads a merry fugue: “All the world’s a joke, and only the jolly are wise.”