Opera’s 5 Greatest ‘April Fools’ Jokes

By Francisco Salazar

April Fools Day is the day to prank fellow friends and enjoy watching them suffer under false assumptions. Of course, the clincher of a true April Fool’s joke is that you let the person know they have been fooled once it is all over.

Opera’s greatest works are filled with characters playing massive pranks on one another, to the audience’s perpetual enjoyment. Here are the greatest “April Fools” jokes in opera!

Don Pasquale

Good old Don Pasquale thinks life is great! He is rich, is finally getting rid of that good for nothing nephew of his and has just married a beautiful provincial girl named Sofronia. But everything goes to hell when the innocent Sofronia starts destroying his world, spending his money and insulting him. Fortunately, he eventually finds out that it was all one cruel joke as Sofronia is none other than Norina, his nephew’s girlfriend, in league with Dr. Malatesta teaching him that he should never try and buy himself a wife.


Good old Sir John Falstaff thinks that he can get any woman he wants, his appetite for sex insatiable. But what he doesn’t realize is how grotesque he is. So the women of Windsor spend two hours making him fall into one trap after another.

But the cruelest joke comes in the third act of the opera. Falstaff arrives in the lonely woods after falling in the river. Suddenly he finds himself surrounded by mystical creatures that have decided to punish him for his sins. After much physical torment, the joke implodes when Bardolfo speaks out of turn and the Sir recognizes his traitorous friend.

But Falstaff isn’t the only one who gets fooled. Good old Ford has tried to marry off his daughter to Dr. Caius. Unbeknownst to him and Caius, the women have also planned a manner to marry off Nannetta to the love of her life; Caius ends up marrying Bardolfo.

L’Elisir D’Amore

Dr. Dulcamara is a charlatan from the beginning of the opera and he is able to fool the townspeople with his famous concoctions. He sells off good old Nemorino, making him believe that he is getting the prized Elixir of Love. Instead, he is getting a bottle of Bordeaux. But things really turn upside down when Dulcamara starts to believe that his “elixir” actually works, selling the entire town on it at the end of the opera. Unlike the other jokes in opera, no one catches on or discovers the whole truth. There is one person who knows the truth, but she doesn’t tell anyone.

L’Inutile Precauzione 

Actually, it’s called “Il Barbiere di Siviglia.”

This opera features one joke after another with the fool winding up being none other than Dr. Bartolo. The Count first dresses up as a drunken soldier who invades Bartolo’s home and turns it upside down. Then he dresses up as Don Alfonso to teach Rosina her musical lesson. All the while, Bartolo falls for every single joke in the book. When he finally seems to catch on, he takes the useless precaution of taking away the ladder leading to Rosina’s bedroom. But the joke’s on him when he arrives and finds her married.

But the actual prank is the Count’s identity. After fooling every single character into thinking he is Lindoro, or a drunken soldier or Don Alfonso, he finally reveals himself to be the all-powerful Count Almaviva.

Così Fan Tutte

Perhaps there is no crueler prank than the one that is played on the four lovers in the Mozart comedy. Don Alfonso gets the cocky lovers to test their girlfriends and then the four find themselves questioning their emotional stability. It supposedly has a “happy ending” when the lovers reveal the plot, but I don’t think anyone really knows who winds up with who by the end of this opera, leaving everyone, including the audience, fooled.


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