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I heard Falstaff on Saturday and enjoyed it. The mostly Canadian cast is solid and to the Opera de Montreal standard of one marvellous voice (Aline Kutan) and one wretched (Antonio Giueroa) per show. It’s acted well (Marie-Nicole Lemieux) and the musicians were spritely handled. But enjoying it and engaging with it are different, and I couldn’t manage both. This ex-Glimmerglass production is opera for people who don’t like thinking.

It’s painful to consider the missed opportunities in this beautiful, rich material, and Falstaff is just the latest work whose potential was wasted by the parasite of lazy directing munching on Opera de Montreal’s brain. It seems like a comic romp, but this porridge of Shakespeare’s Henry IVs and the Merry Wives of Windsor hides darkness in its childish story of revenge by Falstaff’s victims, Mrs. Meg and Mrs. Ford, whom he ineptly woos for their husband’s money. Darkness would make the comedy funnier, richer, muskier, more satisfying. Instead, it’s trite.

There aren’t many operatic male characters that live off their conquests and there aren’t many operas where the women so completely triumph, but you won’t find any of that here. Or contrasts like the one between Caius and Falstaff: old Caius the foil, proper and honourably old, but scheming to marry a young girl, and Falstaff the aristocrat mocking the aristocracy’s pretensions of honour — for which men and women are still killed today — while making himself a “kingdom of the belly” by methodical gluttony.

When jealous Mr. Ford and his men think they’ve cornered Falstaff with Ford’s wife, they hesitate. They are afraid of him. Why? When Falstaff is punished at the tree where the huntsman hung himself, is he really dreaming? Is it his conscience drawing him to a suicidal place after a dishonourable life? A stageful of men and women dressed like imps prodding a fat man is funny, but what would Falstaff have done with the wives if he were successful and holding the stick?

But this production doesn’t deal with any of these ideas. Opera de Montreal isn’t interested in ideas.

Well, I am. Pleasant voices making appropriate gestures against beige walls gets boring. Opera is more than a glottal track meet where everyone gets a medal for showing up.

Damiano Michieletto’s production in Saltzburg this summer set Falstaff as a daydream in a retirement home, based on the one Verdi founded in Milan. Read Tommasini’s review in the Times and ask yourself, all singers being even, which would you rather see?