As Alice Ford, Ailyn Pérez put on one of her more nuanced performances at the Met. Her lush soprano was a perfect fit for Verdi’s soaring lines on “E il viso tuo su me risplenderà;” this line bloomed in Pérez’s voice, the high G sharp bright and resplendent; the latter iteration was similarly wonderful in its execution. Her elegant legato was equally present in the Act three narration “Quando il rintocco,” though in a different manner. The passage sits lower for the soprano, ranging from the D natural above middle C to a fifth above that on A natural; Verdi’s score asks for voce grossa and Pérez’s timbre had ample stability as it funneled vibrantly into the hall. While it was soft, it had fullness in its resonance, adding to the mysterious nature of the narrative.
This expansive line has always been one of Pérez’s greatest strengths as an artist, but she also displayed great vocal nimbleness coupled with impeccable diction throughout. This was present in the tricky “Gaie comari di Windsor” with its rapid Allegro requiring the singing to be “a mezza voce” and still with crystal clear enunciation; Pérez displayed her bravura singing here, retaining brightness of sound while projecting the text efficiently and expressing Alice’s excitement at playing this big trick on Falstaff.
Excited is likely the best way to explain the characterization Pérez developed throughout; her Alice, while annoyed at being played with and disrespected by the men in her life, still retained a humorous approach to everything. Whether it be how she read the letter with gusto or frolicked onstage during the final encounter with Falstaff, you always got a sense of Alice just going with the flow. And that’s what also made her all the more powerful. Because she never betrayed any sense of stress or insecurity, she always looked to be in complete control of the situation. When Falstaff attempted to pull up her dress, she brushed him away playfully, never betraying the disgust.
When Ford tried to chastise his daughter for her betrayal, Pérez’s Alice walked over to him, brushed him up and eased his temper.
When we talk about the great operatic comedies such as “Le Nozze di Figaro,” “Il Barbiere di Siviglia,,” “Don Pasquale,” or “Falstaff,” the common thread is how the women are always one step ahead of the men, who are portrayed as emotionally unstable fools. Pérez was the personification of poised and collected both physically and vocally.