Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Citron, Marcia J. “Opera-Film as Television: Remediation in Tony Britten’s Falstaff.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 70 (Summer 2017): 475-522.

Tony Britten’s 2008 television adaptation of Verdi’s Falstaff reconfigures the opera into a British situation comedy, a radical treatment that suggests a new path for opera films as transformation through remediation. While performances of operas are not a new phenomenon, they tend to capitalize on television’s aesthetic. Britten’s adaptation, however, strips Falstaff of nearly all of its operatic signifiers with its cast of non-opera singers and Britten’s updated English libretto and chamber arrangements of the score. In a context of British television, Falstaff, a television actor in Britten’s adaptation, reads as a familiar kind of sitcom character embodied by Tony Hancock of Hancock’s Half-Hour (1956-60) or more recently David Brent of The Office (2001-3). An example of the changes Britten makes to Verdi’s score is the removal of the textual return at the end of Falstaff’s aria Quand’ero paggio, which minimizes its operatic conventionality. Verdi’s mannered musical style associated with Fontana is justified in Britten’s film through the cinematic trope of the Godfather; Fontana’s overly Italianate scoring is rendered televisually with Italian mobster stereotypes. Britten’s television opera concept works particularly with Falstaff, as it highlights the unique strengths of Verdi’s score. Britten’s chamber arrangement—pared down to nine players and no core string section—still captures Verdi’s textures and mannerisms. The discontinuities and speech-like patter in Verdi’s score are readily adapted into the fast-paced medium of television. Although not all operas would benefit from Britten’s approach to televisual realism, the novelty of his remediation of Falstaff could serve as a model for opera adaptation in the digital age.

Works: Tony Britten (director and arranger): score to Falstaff (486-513)

Sources: Giuseppe Verdi: Falstaff (486-513)

Index Classifications: 2000s, Film

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

Except where otherwise noted, this website is subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
Creative Commons Attribution License