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Last modified: Wednesday, October 15, 2008

IU Opera Theater presents ‘brilliant comic romp’ “The Merry Wives of Windsor”

Interpretation combines 'the wit of Shakespeare' with 'the charm of a Viennese operetta'

Oct. 15, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Opera Theater continues its 60th anniversary season with the lighthearted Shakespearean comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor by German composer Carl Otto Nicolai (1810-1849). The opera will be performed at 8 p.m. at the Musical Arts Center on Oct. 24, 25 and 31 and Nov. 1.

The libretto, based on the Shakespeare play by the same name, is by Austrian dramatist Salomon Hermann von Mosenthal (1821-1877) and originally premiered at the Royal Opera House in Berlin in 1849. IU's production will be directed by Jacobs School of Music Professor Vincent Liotta and conducted by Jacobs Professor David Effron, chair of instrumental conducting at the school. Jacobs designer emeritus Robert O'Hearn's Falstaff set will be repurposed for the show. The dialogue is in English and arias are in German with supertitles.

Merry Wives of Windsor

The "Merry Wives of Windsor" at Indiana University's Musical Arts Center

Print-Quality Photo

"This production has the wit of Shakespeare and the extremely listenable, charming music of a Viennese operetta," Liotta said, adding that this version of the opera is much closer to Shakespeare's original play than other operatic interpretations.

The story is set in Windsor, Berkshire, England, in the early 15th century. Sir John Falstaff, the middle-aged knight, tries to court the married Mistress Ford and Mistress Page for his financial advantage. The ladies decide to teach old John a lesson, and he is the victim of a series of pranks, first by them, and then by the whole town, until he swears never again to indulge in amorous pursuits.

"Shakespeare's plays lend themselves so well to the operatic stage," said Effron, citing Macbeth, Othello and Falstaff as examples. "The lesser known Nicolai opera is, for me, one of the most happy operas of all, beginning with its overture, which sets the mood for this fun, funny story with its 'off the wall' characters. My colleague Vince Liotta has done a magnificent job in defining these characters -- who can very well remind us of people we know."

Effron said audiences should pay special attention during the "Moonrise" chorus in Act III, which is based on themes heard in the overture, and Frau Fluth's Act I aria, which he calls a "tour de force" for the singer. "This opera has music reminiscent of Broadway and beautiful, soaring 'grand opera' numbers" he said.

Said Liotta, "It's a very familiar tale that is very much like Shakespeare, and at the same time, very much like Die Fledermaus (a farce by German playwright Julius Roderich Benedix) -- the best of both worlds."

Performance Dates:

All performances of The Merry Wives of Windsor will take place at the Musical Arts Center, 101 N. Jordan Avenue, and will begin at 8 p.m., with Opera Insights at 7 p.m. Performance dates are Oct. 24, 25, 31 and Nov. 1. Tickets for the Oct. 24 show, which is general admission, are $25 ($12 for students). Tickets for all other shows range from $15-$35 ($10-$20 for students).

To learn more about the IU Jacobs School of Music, visit

About IU Opera Theater

For six decades, the glory of opera has been celebrated year-round at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, with at least seven productions staged annually in the Musical Arts Center (MAC). The innovative productions of IU Opera Theater, sung by students, have won international critical acclaim. While at IU, these young artists are taught by a faculty widely considered the best in the nation, if not the world, and which Beverly Sills once called "absolutely mind-boggling." For more information about IU Opera and Ballet Theater performances and to order tickets, visit