The Merry Wives of Windsor, that is, the story of Sir John Falstaff being taught a lesson and the loving marriage of the young Anne Reich, has been a favourite thematic source for prose and musical theatre alike since the time of Shakespeare. Nicolai’s singspiel, which was last performed in the Opera House more than 60 years ago, is performed by artists from the Opera’s highly professional chorus in the foyer of the Erkel Theatre, allowing the audience to enjoy the new revision in intimate proximity to the performers.
Please be informed that some of the seats for this performance are positioned on the stage itself. Audience members seated there will not be required to participate.
In order to improve his financial situation, the impoverished nobleman Falstaff is attempting to court two wealthy married women. Frau Fluth and Frau Reich both receive love letters from him at the same time. The two friends naturally tell each other about this occurrence, and decide to teach the conceited man a lesson for his impudence. The Reichs' daughter Anna, who is of age to be married, has three suitors vying for her hand: Dr. Cajus, whom the girl's mother would like her daughter to have for a husband, Spärlich, the shy nobleman, who is favoured by Anna's father, and the penniless Fenton, whom Anna herself wants to marry. Frau Fluth invites Falstaff to a rendezvous at her house. The man is clumsily attempting to seduce her when, seemingly unexpectedly, the master of the house appears and in jealous wrath turns the entire house upside down looking for his rival. Falstaff is forced to hide in a large laundry tub, whose contents are promptly dumped into a sewer ditch.
Falstaff is singing drinking songs in the inn. A messenger arrives with a letter from Frau Fluth, who has invite him to another assignation. Naturally, by now both husbands have learned of Falstaff's intentions and manipulations. Herr Fluth appears incognito at the inn, introducing himself as Herr Bach. He starts a conversation with the uninhibited Falstaff, who boasts proudly of the affair he is carrying on with Frau Fluth, which makes the already jealous husband mad with rage. Spärlich and Dr. Cajus are lurking around Anna's window when Fenton serenades the girl. The other two suitors swiftly hide in the the bushes and spy on the lovers from there. Falstaff is again in Frau Fluth's house when Frau Reich warns them that the master of the house is on his way home. Frau Fluth dresses the knight in women's clothes to make him look like a maidservant. When Frau Fluth returns home, he finds the would-be seducer disguised as an old maid and angrily throws him out of the house.
The two wives decide to stop driving their husbands mad and instead let them in on their latest plan for teaching Falstaff a final lesson. The knight is lured to a midnight masked ball in Windsor Forest. At the same time, the Reichs each conspire to take advantage of the confusion at the ball to hand over Anna to the suitor picked out by each of them. Anna arranges a night- time encounter with Fenton in the forest. Falstaff, who shows up at the ball wearing a mask to look like Herne the Hunter, ends up being completely terrified by the two women and the various forest apparitions. When the people of Windsor reveal their identity, Falstaff's ridiculousness is exposed at all. Anna and Fenton also arrive after having secretly married each other in the chapel in the forest, meaning that it's not only the seductive knight who has been stymied in the chaotic night, the conniving citizens after Anna's hand have also had their plans foiled. In the end, everyone puts the best face on the events of this bizarre adventure and peace is restored in the town.