All 10 singers in the cast of Seattle Opera's new production of Verdi's final opera make their roles vivid and hold their own. This is the first Falstaff I've seen, I think, where no one gets lost in the shuffle. As young lovers Nannetta and Fenton, Anya Matanovic and Blagoj Nacoski are as fresh as ingenues in an MGM musical. Weston Hurt, as Ford, who thinks Falstaff is cuckolding him, brings his solo scene some true pathos. And popular mezzo Stephanie Blythe, who can do no wrong, expands her vastly diverse repertory—for SO alone, the larger-than-life tragic roles of Aida's Amneris, the Ring's Fricka, and Carmen—as an imposing Dame Quickly. Leading the Gold Cast is Peter Rose in the title role; his baritone is versatile and nimble rather than (as his voluminous fat suit might have suggested) stentorian. Director Peter Kazaras has his cast dress and warm up onstage, in full view of entering operagoers, for about a half-hour before the first downbeat. He also keeps them onstage to watch, as we do, scenes they aren't singing in. In thus blurring the divide between performer and observer, he drew inspiration from Falstaff's final ensemble—"All the world's a joke,/Man is born a fool," which includes the audience in the opera's moral. It's a movingly embracing envoi to the world from this most humane of composers. GAVIN BORCHERT

Wednesdays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Fri., March 12, 7:30 p.m. Starts: Feb. 27. Continues through March 13, 2010

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