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Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor

Comic/fantasy opera by Otto Nicolai

In German language with German surtitles

Ms. Fluth and Ms. Reich, two married ladies, receive love letters from the impoverished nobleman Falstaff at the same time. They decide to teach him a lesson. At the same time, three cavaliers want to marry Anna, the daughter of Ms. Reich: Dr. Cajus, a French beau, is her mother's favourite, but her father prefers the shy Junker Spärlich, and Anna herself is in love with the penniless Fenton. Plenty of material for countless complications and entanglements.

More than 40 years before Verdi, Otto Nicolai and librettist Salomon Hermann Mosenthal used Shakespeare's play The Merry Wives of Windsor for their opera. Was it a romantic comedy the two had in mind, or can we even detect an influence from the revolutionary movements of 1848? Confident bourgeois women taking up the fight with aristocracy?

In any case, if failed ambition is considered one of the driving forces of drama, The Merry Wives of Windsor provides the best example. And in this case it is not gods or fate that cause ambition to fail, it is the women who trim male ambition down to nothing but empty words. The production is in the hands of the highly accomplished Dutch director Nina Spijkers, who has already subjected numerous theatre classics to a critical reading and will be working with set designer and Tony Award winner Rae Smith for her first work at the Volksoper. "I am drawn to stories in which women form a strong community," says Spijkers of her interest in Nicolai's opera.

Act I

Frau Fluth and Frau Reich both receive ardent, albeit bold love letters: identically worded, signed by the same sender: John Falstaff. They vow to pay him back for his audaciousness. Their husbands also discuss matters of the heart. Herr Fluth questions his wife’s fidelity while Herr Reich is busy selecting a future husband for his daughter Anna. The candidates are his favourite Spärlich, while his wife prefers the Frenchman Cajus. Third in contention is penniless Fenton, who vows to love Anna but is dismissed by Reich. The “merry wives” have started their mission and invite Falstaff to a secret date with Frau Fluth. They also inform her husband – by “anonymous” note – of the meeting to cure his jealousy. As expected, Herr Fluth and his entourage arrive to prove his wife’s infidelity. She, however, hid Falstaff in a washing basket and with the help of Frau Reich, manages to get him out of the house.

Act II

After his unexpected bath, Falstaff soon recuperates when receiving a message from Frau Fluth, apologising for the mix-up and inviting him to an erotic adventure once again. Soon after, Herr Fluth, posing as a “Mister Bach” approaches the unsuspecting Falstaff, who tells the “stranger” about the washing basket and a renewed invitation from Frau Fluth.

Spärlich and Cajus both hope for a romantic evening with Anna, but her feelings belong to Fenton alone. She promises her lover to cross her parents’ plan and marry neither of their preferred suitors. Meanwhile, Falstaff has arrived at Frau Fluth’s house, ready for their date. Unexpectedly, Herr Fluth arrives, convinced he will find Falstaff in his wife’s arms. Frau Fluth and Frau Reich, adept to thinking on their feet, swiftly dress Falstaff in a colleague’s dress and parade “her” in front of indignant Herr Fluth.


The “wives” take pity on their husbands and explain about their plan to dupe Falstaff. In the grand finale, they let his wildest fantasies come true, only to teach him the lesson of his lifetime.

Meanwhile, Anna has taken matters into her own hand, presenting her husband to her parents…


Keren Kagarlitsky
Stage direction
Nina Spijkers
Set design
Rae Smith
Costume design
Jorine van Beek
Florian Hurler
Lighting design
Tim van't Hof
Choir director
Roger Díaz-Cajamarca
Frau Reich
Stephanie Maitland
Frau Fluth
Hedwig Ritter
Sir John Falstaff
Martin Winkler
Herr Reich
Aaron Pendleton
Herr Fluth
Orhan Yildiz
Anna Reich
Alexandra Flood
Alexandros Tsilogiannis
Dr. Cajus
Pablo Santa Cruz
Junker Spärlich
Karl-Michael Ebner
Der Wirt
Georg Wacks
Erster Bürger
Mirjam Sori Gogic
Zweiter Bürger
Selma Fasching
Dritter Bürger
Burcu Kurt
Vierter Bürger
Angela Riefenthaler

Photos and Videos


In German language: Georg Wacks, actor at the opera house, reads, rehearses, plays the jealous husband from Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Press comments

The Volksoper presents Otto Nicolai's 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' as a ravishing parody with British slapstick, humour and a fantastic ensemble.
Der Standard 15. May 2023
Much applause for the successful new production of Otto Nicolai's opera.
Oberösterreichische Nachrichten 15. May 2023
Nina Spijkers staged Otto Nicolai's comic-fantastic opera for the Volksoper as a turbulent feminist circus that delighted the audience.
Kronen Zeitung 15. May 2023
Spijkers brings Nicolai's work to the stage in an adorably funny, fluffy, light and fast-paced way. The fact that the three hours fly by is thanks to her excellent sense of humour and timing, which fortunately manages to get by without any tasteless thigh-slapping or embarrassing antics.
Der Standard 15. May 2023
Both scenically and musically, 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' is an asset to the Volksoper.
Kurier 15. May 2023
Cheers for all involved.
Kurier 15. May 2023

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