Opera Scotland

Sir John in Love

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Ralph Vaughan Williams (born Down Ampney, 12 October 1872; died London, 26 August 1958)


The composer.


Comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor (1600-01) by William Shakespeare (1564-1616).



First Performance: London (Parry Opera Theatre, Royal College of Music), 21 March 1929.

First Performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (George Square Theatre), tbc 1982.



Sir John in Love is based on an adaptation by the composer of The Merry Wives of Windsor, with the addition of several recognisable English folksongs and other lyrics by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Greensleeves is particularly important, and would inspire the composer to produce later works associated with it. The opera has always been compared unfavourably with the undoubted genius of Verdi's Falstaff, a very different style of interpretation, which has probably restricted the later works popularity. However, in recent years recordings have shown its true quality, and several stagings, notably at ENO, have been successful. The composer;s qualities are now more widely recognised, but whether Sir John will enter the standard repertoire remains doubtful.


Main Characters

Sir John Falstaff (baritone)

Bardolph, Falstaff's servant (tenor)

Nym, Falstaff's servant (baritone)

Pistol, Falstaff's servant (bass)

Fenton, a young gentleman (tenor)

Ford, a wealthy Windsor merchant (bass)

Mrs Ford, his wife (mezzo-soprano)

Mrs Page (soprano)

Anne Page, her daughter (soprano)

Mrs Quickly (mezzo-soprano)


Plot Summary

Anne Page loves Fenton, but her mother wants her to marry Dr Caius, and she is also courted by the elderly Slender. Falstaff writes identical letters to pay court to Mrs Page and Mrs Ford. His servants inform on him to Ford. When the wives receive, and compare, the letters, they decide on revenge and send Quickly to arrange a rendezvous. Ford, in disguise, goes to Falstaff and persuades him to attempt the seduction of Mrs Ford.

Anne furthers her own plans to marry Fenton. Mrs Ford admits Falstaff for his seduction attempt, but they are interrupted by Quickly advising them of Ford's approach. After Falstaff has been hidden in the laundry basket then tipped into the river, Ford begs his wife's forgiveness, and they combine with the other wives to plan Falstaff's humiliation that night in Windsor Forest. While they achieve this, Anne and Fenton succeed in defying her parents' plans by getting married in secret.

The Cast

Abraham Slender
 a country gentleman
 Ford's wife
 the Pages' daughter
 a tippler and follower of Falstaff
Dr Caius
 a French physician
 a gentleman of the Court
Frank Ford
 a Windsor townsman
George Page
 a Windsor townsman
 of the Garter Inn
 of the Garter Inn
Hugh Evans
 a Welsh parson
 the Fords' servant
John Rugby
 Caius' servant
 Page's wife
Nell Quickly
 Caius' housekeeper
 a cutpurse and follower of Falstaff
Peter Simple
 Slender's servant
 a braggart soldier and follower of Falstaff
 the Fords' servant
Robert Shallow, JP
 Slender's uncle
 Falstaff's page
Sir John Falstaff
 a portly knight
 the Pages' son

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