Backstage at LA Opera’s Falstaff: “Let them Eat Parkin!”
Let them Eat Parkin!
(It ain’t over till Falstaff sings)
Behind-the-scenes at LA Opera’s Falstaff
Leticia Marie Sanchez
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It ain’t over till Falstaff sings.
The chubby British knight is opera’s favorite foodie.
During a backstage tour at LA Opera, director Lee Blakeley revealed that Verdi’s opera about Shakespeare’s mischievous knight centers on appetite. Lust for food, money, and carnal pleasures. The feasts on Blakely’s stage illustrate the portly knight’s gusto for gastronomy, from plump turkey to Parkin cake. This sticky, traditional British dessert made of oatmeal and treacle dates back to the precise era when Falstaff would have cavorted with his merry wives of Windsor.
The Parkin cake prop highlights Blakeley’s attention to historical detail. This isn’t opera re-set during the Vietnam War, and the food props highlight the production’s meticulous accuracy. The food masks, designed by Hallie Dufresne, derive inspiration from fruit portraits created by sixteenth century Italian painter, Giuseppe Arcimboldo.
Left, Hallie Dufresne with Food Mask, Backstage LA Opera
Left, Guiseppe Arcimboldo, Spring, 1563
And how do the singers cope with singing whilst devouring turkey and Parkin?
We test to see “what will choke them, what will not choke them,” explained Blakeley.
As if hitting those falsettos isn’t hard enough.
Mezzo-Soprano Ronnita Nicole Miller (Mistress Quickly) described eating cookies during much of Act Two Scene Two.
She sticks to oat flavored.
“They’re more period than Chocolate Chip.”
Cookie Monster Falstaff believes that extra body fat bolsters his libido. Ha actually takes the time to thank his portly frame for attracting the ladies. In the aria “Va Vecchio John” (Go for it Old John), Falstaff sings
“All the women in revolt together risk damnation for me/
Good body of Sir John/ which I nourish and indulge/ I thank you.”
LA Opera’s production revels in the exuberance of Falstaff.
Bawdy and Soul.
Left Dorothy Chandler Pavillion