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Nicolai: Merry Wives of Windsor

Here’s a hint: It’s Shakespeare. . . with a German twist!

One of Shakespeare’s most famous and lovable characters is the fat and foolish knight Sir John Falstaff. Not only does he play a huge role in Parts 1 and 2 of Henry IV, but he’s also the featured comic force in The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Many musical masterpieces are either based on Merry Wives or feature Falstaff as a central character, including works by Salieri, Verdi, Elgar and Vaughan Williams. Another musical interpretation of this comic play has been revived off and on through the years, and that is Otto Nicolai’s opera The Merry Wives of Windsor.

The overture is a staple of the orchestral repertoire, though the opera itself deserves to be performed much more often than it does. Nicolai’s Merry Wives is a classic example of the German Singspiel opera, an opera that includes spoken dialogue mixed in with the music. Nicolai’s opera stays very true to Shakespeare’s original play and is equally as funny and entertaining!

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