'The Merry Wives of Windsor'

Falstaff was reputed to be Queen Elizabeth's favorite character in all of Shakespeare's writings. Falstaff's misadventures with two married women form the basis for Shakespeare's comedy, "The Merry Wives of Windsor." The wives are merry because of the pranks they get to pull on the oversized wooer.

Rogue Opera will celebrate its 32nd anniversary with a production of Otto Nicolai's comic opera adaptation of the play. Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday, April 25, and — p.m. Sunday, April 27, at the Southern Oregon University Music Recital Hall, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland; 8 p.m. Friday, May 2, at the Grants Pass Performing Arts Center, 830 N.E. Ninth St., Grants Pass; and 4 p.m. Sunday, May 4, at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford.

Nicolai set the story to music using text by Salomon Hermann von Mosenthal, who captured the essential elements of Shakespeare's popular play. Rogue Opera will use the San Francisco Pocket Opera's English translation.

The opera was first performed in Berlin in 1849 and recently has enjoyed a number of revivals.

None of Nicolai's other operas have survived.

The story features Falstaff, an aging and portly has-been cavalier. He still imagines himself a bit of a lady's man and sets out to simultaneously court two married women by use of identical love letters. The faithful wives plot their revenge, while a daughter of one of them strives to outwit her parents as they attempt to arrange an unwanted marriage.

David MacKenzie conducts a full chorus and orchestra. Costumes are from Opera San Jose. Rogue Opera's Artistic Director Willene Gunn, a 30-year veteran director of the opera program at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, directs a cast drawn from Portland and Seattle opera companies and the San Francisco and Rogue Valley singing communities.

Out-of-town singers include Brian Thorsett, tenor, singing the role of Fenton. Thorsett is a graduate of San Francisco Opera's Merola Training Program, a Glimmerglass Young American Artist and a veteran of two summers at the Music Academy of the West studying with Marilyn Horne.

Also from San Francisco is Michael Morris, who will be singing the role of Falstaff. Morris performed Papageno in Rogue Opera's production of "The Magic Flute" last year. He has performed baritone lead roles in nearly 70 operas, operettas and Broadway musicals.

Linda Mattos, soprano, was a two-time Metropolitan Opera Audition Regional Finalist and will sing the role of Mrs. Ford, one of the merry wives. Young Anne Page will be sung by Lindsey Cafferky, who recently sang with Portland Opera's outreach program.

Local performers include Michael Flaherty as Mr. Ford; Lorrie Hall as Mrs. Page, the other merry wife; Michael Wing as Mr. Page; Dan Gibbs as Dr. Cajus; and Mark Peterson as Slender.

"It's an amazing cast," Hall said. "It's hysterically funny and all in good fun."

Ashland tickets are $30 and $36; Grants Pass tickets are $25 and $30; and Medford tickets are $22, $25 and $32. Student tickets (21 and younger) are $10 in Ashland and Grants Pass; and $10, $15 and $22 in Medford.

Tickets are available at Larry's Music, Grants Pass; Music Coop, Ashland; and the Rogue Opera office and the Craterian Box Office, Medford. Call 779-3000. See or call 608-6400.

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