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JUNE 23 & 25

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By now Shakespeare and Verdi have been doppelgängered by a century’s worth of theorists. Who, after all, but these two geniuses could so convincingly dress the conventions of melodrama in the mantle of human tragedy? But it’s the lone comedy of Verdi’s maturity, Falstaff, that truly revealed the Italian composer and his Elizabethan idol as a great songwriting team. Here, Verdi used a lifetime’s experience limning the human heart to re-create the Bard’s lovable sitcom, The Merry Wives of Windsor, into a new form: a Rossinian opera buffa in the Wagnerian style, all the story’s effervescence and quicksilver changes of emotion through-composed into a seamless musical whole. It’s a fiendishly difficult piece to bring off in all its multilayered glory, but the Summer Opera Theater turns in a bright-eyed production. If John Leymeyer’s direction trades more on slickly choreographed comic business than behavioral subtlety, it’s a model of its kind, the stage alive with engaging activity every moment. The lean sound of the reduced orchestra and literalness of the sets reinforce that mischievous tone, though Act 3’s rich blend of ruefulness and enchantment becomes a decided casualty. Really selling Andrew Porter’s English translation of Boito’s Shakespeare-friendly libretto, the cast of strong singers is crowned by Donald Sherrill’s Falstaff, looking for all the world like a fat-suited Jeffrey Tambor and sounding like a young Sherrill Milnes. At 8 p.m. June 23 and 7 p.m. June 25 at Catholic University’s Hartke Theater, 620 Michigan Ave. NE. $25-50. (202) 319-4000. (Joe Banno)