Thursday, July 18, 2024

Adolf Schrödter’s 1864 painting of “Falstaff und sein Page.” (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

The Harvard College Opera brings “Falstaff” to the Agassiz Theatre starting Friday, the 2024 iteration of the mainstage production presented each February.

Giuseppe Verdi’s final opera, “Falstaff” is based on Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” It tells the story of the caddish Sir John Falstaff, who plans to seduce two wealthy women and scheme them out of some money, but the trickery is not that simple.

While the antihero has his tragic moments in Shakespeare’s “Henry” plays, here the action is wholly comedic. If you can’t imagine laughing (on purpose) during an opera, this is the one to try. “Falstaff” will be performed in Italian with supertitles.

“I love this opera,” music director Yizhe Sun said. “But it’s a difficult one.”

The Harvard College Opera auditions students in the fall and presents one full-length opera annually as an entirely student-run venture, from cast to production team to board of operators.

“Choosing the opera is a two-step process,” said Sun, a junior at the college who joined HCO as a rehearsal pianist at the end of his first year. It starts with a meeting of the board of operators, who come up with a shortlist of five operas. “After the shortlist is finalized, we have auditions and the stage director and the music director choose an opera from the five.”

Directed by Eliza Zangerl, “Falstaff” runs through Feb. 10 at the Agassiz Theatre, 5 James St., Harvard Square, Cambridge. Tickets are $20 for the general public and are available at