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Paul Plishka Stars in Met’s ‘Falstaff’

January 23, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ After 25 or more years with an opera company, many singers are switched from major to minor roles. Bass Paul Plishka, who made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1966 in ``La Boheme,″ seems to be moving the other way.

He sang the title role in Verdi’s comic ``Falstaff″ on Monday night at the Met.

Plishka has sung more than 50 roles at the Met, mainly important secondary parts. In this first ``Falstaff″ of the season, and the first at the Met since 1992, Plishka adroitly held center stage.

He sang with richness and seriousness as the womanizing Falstaff, who tries to seduce two ``merry wives″ of Windsor. His acting wasn’t flamboyant but his comic timing was fine. The most fun were scenes in which he and mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, as Mrs. Quickly, played off each other.

In a subplot, young Nanetta Ford and Fenton are in love but her father has promised her to an old doctor. Barbara Bonney and Paul Groves sang with floatingly light, sweet voices about their love while Michel Senechal put a prissy edge on his voice as the doctor.

Gino Quilico was excellent as Ford, Nanetta’s father. Barbara Daniels as Mrs. Ford and Margaret Lattimore as Mrs. Page weren’t quite sterling but were good. Their voices did blend beautifully with Bonney and Horne in several all-female quartets.

Daniels, Lattimore, Groves and Quilico were singing their parts for the first time at the Met. James Levine conducted.

Verdi, who was nearly 80 when ``Falstaff″ had its premiere at La Scala in 1893, wrote in a letter that he had wanted to write a comic opera for 40 years and had known ``The Merry Wives of Windsor″ for 50 years. The opera world is fortunate that he finally used Shakespeare’s play and wrote his comic masterpiece.

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