Falstaff, the latest masterpiece of the already eighty-year-old Giuseppe Verdi, performed for the first time on 9 February 1893 at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan and which remained on the bill for twenty-two performances, opens with a scene that takes place in the town of Windsor, England, inside theOsteria della Garrettiera, where the elderly and portly Sir John Falstaff is staying.
Here Doctor Cajus complains about having been robbed by Falstaff and his servants, Pistola and Bardolfo, after having made him drunk, but Falstaff already has another one of his in mind: to win the hearts of Meg and Alice, two beautiful and rich ladies, with the intention of getting their hands on their husbands' money. For this purpose, Falstaff writes and sends two identical letters to the two women, who, together with their friend Quickly and Nannetta, Alice's daughter, having discovered the deception, decide to make fun of him by planning a prank that will ultimately involve the entire town of Windsor.
The story told, divided into three acts (six scenes), takes place at the beginning of the fifteenth century and the entire first part of the first act takes place within theOsteria della Garrettiera, as well as the first part of the second act and other scenes that take place in the garden.
The libretto of the opera, written by Arrigo Boito, takes inspiration from some well-known works by Skakespeare: The Merry Wives of Windsor and theHenry IV, in which the figure of Falstaff appeared for the first time, later also mentioned in Henry V.
The Shakespearean figure of Falstaff is essentially comical (a fat, boastful knight), but Shakespeare does not hesitate to also give it dramatic tones, as for example in the second act ofHenry V, when Falstaff he is on his deathbed, overwhelmed by grief at having been repudiated by the king.
This transition from comedy to tragedy, typical among other things in many of Shakespeare's plays, was also taken up by Boito for his writing of the libretto of Verdi's Falstaff, considered by many critics to be Verdi's most modern and European opera.
The Garter is the name of the inn where Shakespeare's Falstaff stays The Merry Wives of Windsor, a place that Verdi, with the collaboration of Boito, wanted to resume for his opera. A place that became famous in the field of theater at the hands of the greatest and most celebrated English playwright, and then, subsequently, thanks to opera.
A tavern therefore, that of The Garter, which has linked and will forever link two of the most illustrious figures of world culture of all time: Shakespeare And Giuseppe Verdi.