Theatre at UBC

The Merry Wives of Windsor

by Otto Nicolai; Libretto by H. von Mosenthal; English Libretto by Josef Blatt

with the UBC Opera Ensemble & the UBC Symphony Orchestra

Conductor-Jesse Read; Stage Director-Nancy Hermiston; Set Design-Robert Gardiner; Light Design-Jeremy Baxter

at the Chan Shun Concert Hall, UBC, February 10-13, 2000


by Ed Farolan

Ron Fedoruk, Head of the Department of Theatre, Film and Creative Writing quotes Marshall McLuhan's famous statement "The Medium is the Message" when he refers to this production, stating that meaningful communication may be achieved in the manner in which a story is told rather in the story itself.

And I do agree with Fedoruk particularly in this case because although Shakespeare's story abpout Falstaff and the merry wives of Windsor is interesting enough, the embellishment by Nicolai by converting the drama into opera, as did many composers in the 19th century, made the manner in which the story was presented more interesting, and oftentimes more lavish.

The prima donnas and the divas were born in this century; the audiencepaid more attention now to the singer and the delivery of the songs rather than the content or meaning of the song/story.

But oftentimes, in the world of entertainment, McLuhan's communication message does come to the fore.  In the world of popular music, the audience bows down to the modern divas--the Whitney Houstons, Michael Jacksons, etc., and not so much for the meaning of the music they play which altogether is insignificant in content anyway.

And basing my critique on this premise, I did enjoy the energetic performance of  the singers/actors, particularly Lambroula Pappas who played Mrs. Ford.  My eardrums were almost shattered as she reached those high notes. Chad Louwerse as fat Falstaff did his part well.  It was hard to tell whether the actor was fat, or whether the costume designer was just so good that she did make us believe that Falstaff was in fact the heavyweight Shakespeare pictures him to be.

Sandra Stringer as the other merry wife was also effective as a stark contrast to Mrs. Ford, both physically and vocally.  Kevin Sean Pook as Mr. Ford and Shae Apland as Mr. Page sang and acted their roles effectively.  I was more convinced with their singing prowess, though, more than their acting.  Well, what do you expect?  Excellent actors are usually poor singers, and vice versa.

All in all, it was an enjoyable evening, and I congratulate both departments for working together these past seasons, putting joint productions like this and putting into effect what theatre is all about:  the medium is the message.