A tragedy without great tragedians can still be abstractly impressive, but a comedy without comedians is nothing, and that’s what we got at Dorothy Chandler Wednesday night.
Which is absurd. Of all Shakespeare’s characters, Falstaff is probably the most familiar to present-day Angelenos. Everybody’s phone contains the number of two or three men and women who refuse to grow old gracefully, have no interest in appearing dignified, and party—or try to—like they’re teenagers. Like Falstaff these people are both amusing and disturbing, attractive and repulsive. Clever Shakespeare extracted maximum dramatic and comedic value from his shameless old drunk in the Henry plays, where we could experience not only the fun, but the disgraceful end.
Verdi, being clever along the same lines, recognized a good thing, and knew how to make the most of it. The music is amazingly forward-sounding. It points towards not only Rosenkavalier, Pelleas and Mahler, but Carl Stalling's Looney Tunes soundtracks.
We got glimpses, but not a whole meal. Hopefully next time ...