Opera Scotland

Aynsley Cook as Falstaff in Merry Wives of Windsor

Posted 2 Jun 2013

The great English bass-baritone Aynsley Cook sang Falstaff in the opening night of Nicolai's Merry Wives of Windsor in Aberdeen's Her Majesty's Theatre (known now as the Tivoli) on 10 October 1877.  This was the Scottish premiere of the opera, and the first time it had been sung in English in the UK.  The previous British performances, in London only, had been sung in Italian, and were not well reviewed.  Cook went on to sing the role all over the country. Nicolai's opera became a great favourite with British audiences, but nowadays it is revived only rarely - most recently by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and by Fife Opera.

Born in London, Cook studied in Germany and began his singing career there.  On his return to Britain, he made his debut at Manchester with the English National Opera Company run by Lucy Escott.  He then toured to the USA with that company.

He sang many roles for the Carl Rosa Opera Company - the Opera Scotland website currently lists twenty-eight in Scotland alone. In an interview given in 1892, Cook claimed to have mastered ninety-two roles, so we may have many more to uncover. 

Check out our entry for him here. Read about the recent production of Merry Wives of Windsor by the Royal Scottish Conservatoire here.

The illustration of him playing Falstaff dates from February 1878 when Cook was aged forty-seven. The artist is a well-known periodical illustrator of the day, Matt Stretch, who was also a painter.


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