Sir John in Love, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

five stars

It is not tricky to work out why Vaughan Williams' Falstaff opera is hardly a staple of the repertoire. Although originally written for students at London's Royal College of Music (it was not until after the Second World War that it had a professional production), it is a demanding work that requires umpteen scene changes and employs a dizzying variation of musical styles. As an apprentice piece for singers that may well have been point, of course, and it certainly requires a large cast of different voices and employs an important chorus at crucial points to mark it out as bespoke end-of-term fodder.

That might also make it over-expensive for many a modern house, and knitting the ingredients together a major challenge, so this production should be recommended as a real treat. Scenically, director Benjamin Davis, designers Guiseppe and Emma Belli and their large team have created a major triumph. The first half's Windsor street with unfolding interiors is cutely post VE-Day, with 50s-ish costuming, Mad Men touches and cheeky little political details all over the place. After the interval we are in more abstract territory but the design work is just as well-crafted and witty, and suits the musical world of the Merry Wives perfectly.

Lovely to look at, the production is also a delight to listen to. It might sound like a cop-out, but it seems wrong to single out any of the fine young singers. Arshak Zuzikyan is a full-voiced Falstaff, his associates are an excellently blended ensemble, and Colin Murray a fine Ford, while Hazel McBain, Heather Jamieson, Eirlys Myfamwy Davies and Penelope Cousland all bring character and musicality to the wily women. More shows tonight and Friday.