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Steamboat Magazine

Long-Time Metropolitan Opera Baritone To Star In Verdi's Falstaff

07/15/2014 02:47PM ● By Jack Burger
David Malis, baritone, plays the title role in the Emerald City Opera’s (ECO) upcoming production of Verdi’s final comic masterpiece, Falstaff. Mr. Malis treated a Steamboat Springs audience to famous pieces by Mozart, Lehar, Gounod, and Andrew Lloyd Webber in 2013 at ECO’s Opera Pops Concert.

Mr. Malis, the first American to win the prestigious Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, spent twelve seasons at the Metropolitan Opera where his leading roles included Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Marcello and Schaunard in La Bohème, Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus, and Papageno in Die Zauberflöte. Mr. Malis’ career has taken him across the globe in leading opera roles and recitals as well as behind-the-scenes work in directing, conducting, and teaching. He is currently Director of Opera and Assistant Professor of Voice at the University of Arkansas. 

Before his trip to Steamboat Springs this summer, Mr. Malis was on the Greek island of Syros to perform and direct Puccini's Gianni Schicchi. Although one of the best things about having an opera career is the kind of travel that takes him to Greece, Italy, France, Argentina, and other far-flung places, Mr. Malis says, “the other side of that coin is missing my beautiful children…and lonely hotel rooms.” But he gives himself the same advice he gives his students, saying, “I tell them to live their lives doing something that they love. But be realistic...a singing career is highly competitive and not all glamorous openings, parties, and travel. It’s hard work—having a family and maintaining relationships takes a lot of planning and dedication. That said, my whole life has been set to a soundtrack of the most amazing music, written by geniuses and performed by some of the world's most talented, artistic, funny, and unpredictable people. It sure isn't boring!” 

On August 15 (7pm) and August 17 (3pm), Mr. Malis leads the ECO’s professional cast of Falstaff in Verdi’s three-act farce. Verdi and librettist Arrigo Boito were big fans of William Shakespeare, and this opera is their interpretation of The Merry Wives of Windsor (with some bits of Henry IV thrown in for good measure.) Falstaff— described in the cast of characters as “the fat knight”—is thwarted throughout the opera in his preposterous attempts to seduce two married women. Far from being just a drunken debaucher, Falstaff’s genial humanity and his true, albeit misplaced, belief in his own heroism shines through Verdi’s score and Boito’s lyrics.

“Falstaff is SO much more than just a greedy letch,” says Mr. Malis. “Shakespeare wrote him into three of his plays, and in Verdi’s opera we find an aging but proud and vain knight; a lover, braggart, con man, thief (with a most individual idea of honor), seducer, friend, gentleman, rogue...with a great wit and a greater appreciation for women.” Mr. Malis first performed the title role as a 25-year-old graduate student at the Cincinnati Conservatory, directed by the great Italian bass Italo Tajo. He also performed the other major baritone role, Ford, in over 80 performances before returning to Falstaff himself in 2001. “I think he is wonderful,” says Mr. Malis, “and the 79-year-old Verdi gave him music that is, along with the opera Otello, perhaps Verdi’s most sublime.”

Falstaff will be performed in English at the Steamboat Springs High School Auditorium on Friday, August 15, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday, August 17, 2014 at 3:00 p.m. Tickets in a range of prices are available on the ECO web site at

The Emerald City Opera is dedicated to promoting vocal arts in Northwest Colorado, including opera educational and musical opportunities in collaboration with world-class artists.