Stefan Herheim is directing The Academy of Opera's rendition of Falstaff at the Opera House in April.
Stefan Herheim is directing The Academy of Opera's rendition of Falstaff at the Opera House in April.

Setting up Verdi's Falstaff

The graduating students at the Academy of Opera at The Oslo National Academy of the Arts are working towards the premiere of Falstaff at the Opera House in April. Stefan Herheim, Norway’s most prominent opera director, is directing.

When the Academy of Opera’s Falstaff is premiering at the Opera House on the 2nd and 3rd of April, one of the greatest comedies in opera history will unfold on stage. Director Stefan Herheim, professor II at the Academy of Arts and soon to be head of opera at Theater an der Wien, speaks warmly about the ageing Verdi’s final and only humorous opera.

– Falstaff is unique music-theatre created in the vision of Shakespeare. With his departure from the world-stage, Verdi not only represented the hypocritical bourgeoisie spot on, but also challenged their perception of what a highly esteemed, ageing opera composer could say. In perfect harmony with his librettist, Arrigo Boito, he composed a ridicule of old values, out-dated virtues and moral conceptions in a way which makes us cry over all that’s lost.

Herheim, who normally works with well-established singers on the great opera-stages of the world, says it is the first time he sets up an opera this challenging and comprehensive solely with students on stage. It is not necessarily an altoghether different thing directing students instead of professionals with more experience, according to Herheim, who always focuses on the basics.

– Opera is all about listening to the music, sensitizing of the senses, coordinating mind, body and soul and discover that we come closer to ourselves by becoming and playing others.

– With this great work we have set the bar high for these young singers, Herheim continues, who furthermore wants to challenge the students in their acting. In his rendition of Falstaff, everyone on stage are residents or nurses at an old people’s home. Herheim is directing, doing the scenography and lighting design in this version, which will ble played with KORK, under Gregor Bühls management, also professor at the Academy of Opera.

All about interaction

The Academy of Opera’s play on stage 2 at the Opera House is an annual event which gives graduating students a unique chance to present themselves in a bigger role on stage with a professional orchestra.

– It is when you first stand on a big stage, being part of an ensemble, you understand how dependant everyone is with each other in an opera. In this regard, Falstaff is perfect, because it’s all about interaction, says Herheim.

Trust and security is important

Before the next time, the students will have learned their parts separately, rehearsed with language coaches, opera répétiteurs and song teachers, and had several musical ensemble tests together. When the stage tests begin he will go through the scenes meausure by measure, discuss character, text details and clear away misunderstandings. He says this makes people feel more secure about what they are going to do.

– As a teacher, obviously, I try to create an environment that makes everyone perform at their very best. Musical theater plays on the unknown. You have to fall in love with the play, and the possibilities it gives you. And if the actors and singers don’t have fun together, neither will the audience.

Falstaff by the Academy of Opera is played at the Opera House 2nd and 3rd April. More about the play and how to buy tickets.