Verdi’s correspondence and Hohenstein’s sketch

I managed to get my hands on a delightful compendium of Verdi and Boito’s letters and contemporary reviews of Falstaff (Verdi’s Falstaff, edited and trans. by Hans Busch, 1997). I’m still paging through the 600 page tome, and I will bring it to class tomorrow, but a few things that I think are worth noting – in 1891 there is a little back-and-forth about a watercolor rendering of Falstaff done by Adolf Hohenstein, who designed and painted a lot of scenes and costumes for Verdi (I think, but I’m not 100% sure, that the title picture of this post is the watercolor). He apparently studied ‘on location’ in Windsor and at the British Museum to produce the Falstaff watercolor, which Boito deemed “masterfully executed,” writing only that he would like the character to be “even more robust, with less white in his beard and hair,” which Verdi agreed with. Verdi’s reply is indicative of the kind of finicky perfection that he applied to the work: “He should be a bit fatter (not too much) […] with those sleepy eyes he gives me the impression of a rotten drunkard. Falstaff, who always has so much wit, must not be an obese drunkard” (121). He then asks Boito whether he wants an accent on the first or second syllable of ‘Vindsor.’ Most of the correspondence is rather literary and focuses on wordplay and the poetry of sound, but its interesting to note that Verdi had a very specific image in mind the whole time, as well.

 

Victor Maurel playing Falstaff at the Italian premiere

Victor Maurel playing Falstaff at the Italian premiere

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