Toledo Opera Presents Falstaff, Sapphire Ball

Toledo Local Features  |  10/20/2009 7:00 am

Not many operas portray slovenly, rotund gentlemen as their main character, but the Toledo Opera's production of Falstaff is the exception to that rule.

"It's really funny. You've got the title character who loves beer and food and women-- in that order," said Renay Conlin, general and artistic director for the Toledo Opera. Falstaff is the story of Sir John Falstaff, a portly tub of a man who, running low on funds, sets his sights on wooing two wealthy women out of some cash. When the two women learn of Falstaff's plan, they conspire to give him a taste of his own medicine. The result is composer Giuseppe Verdi's raucous adaptation of Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor and scenes from Henry IV, which both feature the character Sir John Falstaff. Although the opera is set in the fifteenth century, Renay explains the plot line is timeless.

"I think what's great about opera stories is we're still doing the same things we have 200, 300 years ago. People have been behaving in the exact same way, whether it's Desperate Housewives or Mad Men, it's the same stories; we just happen to see it in different forms."

Despite Verdi's long history as a composer, Falstaff was only the second comedic opera he'd ever written. It was also one of his newest.

"He started working on it when he was 78-years-old, which is amazing in itself. He's an extremely prolific composer who wrote 26 operas, but this is only the second that's a comedy. The first was a huge flop, so I think for years he never ventured into comedy. Then he read The Merry Wives of Windsor and he was taken with story and always wanted someone to set it to music."

Verdi collaborated with librettist Arrigo Boito to give his music a voice, and in another game-changing move, included many ensemble pieces, rather than the grand arias of his other operas. The main character roles are played by nationally recognized opera performers from across the country, with Thomas Conlin taking the podium as conductor.

The opera is set to debut Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2009 and run through November 15 at the Valentine Theatre, but you don't have to wait until then to get in on the opera action. The Toledo Opera will present their annual Sapphire Ball, Saturday, Oct. 24 at the Crowne Plaza in downtown Toledo.

The night promises to be full of music, featuring performances from cast members of Falstaff. This black tie event accounts for 10 percent of the organization's income, making the ball and important community event. Tickets are $200 per person for opera season ticket holders and $250 for non ticket holders. The evening beings at 6:30 p.m. with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Dinner is served at 8 p.m.

"It's a very elegant evening. We have a wonderful gourmet dinner, and while it's an elegant evening, you always have a lovely time with the great band, people can dine on a fine meal and dance the night away. It's really fun."

The night also includes a live auction, but this year patrons can check out items online, and even bid.

Whatever the Toledo Opera cooks up, Renay hopes you'll stop by and partake in all the organization has to offer--even if you're new to the scene.

"Most people are surprised. They have these pre-conceived notions of what it's about as a form of entertainment, and I always say if I can get people there, they're going to like it because it'll be different from what they expect. You aren't going to see fat ladies in horned helmets and blonde braids."

Falstaff takes place Nov, 7 through 15, 2009 at The Valentine Theatre. Tickets start at $25 and are available online. The Toledo Opera's Sapphire Ball takes place Oct 24, 2009 at the Crowne Plaza. Tickets are $250 for non-season ticket holders and $200 for season ticket holders. To purchase tickets, bid on online auction items, and for more information, visit or call 419-244-SING (7464).

Purchase Toledo Opera tickets online.