During its 2015/16 season, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with a monthlong festival featuring works inspired by the Bard’s plays. Three performances of Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff in spring 2016, led by Riccardo Muti, will complete his CSO cycle of Verdi’s three Shakespeare-themed operas. The last of Verdi’s 26 operas, Falstaff was written when the composer was nearly 80 years old; it had its premiere at La Scala in Milan in 1893.

With presentations of Otello in 2011 and Macbeth in 2013, Muti and the CSO have set a high standard for Verdi’s Shakespearean works in concert opera performance, garnering widespread critical acclaim, selling out multiple performances in Chicago and New York, and producing a live recording (Otello) on the CSO Resound label. Otello won the 2014 International Opera Award for Best Complete Opera.

Singing the title role in the CSO performances April 21, 23 and 26, 2016 of Falstaff is Ambrogio Maestri, whom the New York Times called “the most sought after Falstaff singer of his time” in advance of his debut in the role at the Metropolitan Opera in 2013. Maestri first performed the role at La Scala in Milan, with Muti conducting, in 2001. Since then, Falstaff has become a signature work for Maestri, who has performed it in more than 20 venues.

The full cast features:

Ambrogio Maestri (baritone), Sir John Falstaff
Eleanora Buratto (soprano), Alice Ford
Luca Salsi (baritone), Ford
Rosa Feola (soprano), Nannette
Saimir Pirgu (tenor), Fenton
Daniela Barcellona (mezzo-soprano), Mistress Quickly
Laura Polverelli (mezzo-soprano), Meg Page
Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani (tenor), Bardolfo
Luca Dall’Amico (bass), Pistola
Salvatore Fiore (tenor), Dr. Caius
Chicago Symphony Chorus, Duain Wolfe, chorus director

Other Shakespeare-inspired works programmed for the 2015/16 season consist of Berlioz’s choral symphony Roméo et Juliette (April 7-9, 2016) and Tchaikovsky’s symphonic poem Romeo and Juliet (April 14-24).

PHOTO: Ambrogio Maestri, here in a 2011 production at the Vienna State Opera, will sing the title role of Falstaff with the CSO in a concert version next season.