La Finta Giardiniera, Glyndebourne, June 2014Posted on 29 June 2014
Pretending is what Finta is all about — the title itself means The Pretend Gardener — but too much pretence can make you can lose your way, which is exactly what happens here.
The separated lovers, Sandrina (aka La Marchesa Violante Onesti) and Count Belfiore have to find themselves and one another before they can realise happiness together. And in true Magic Flute style, the servants Serpetta and Nardo also have to find one another, though she’s in love with her master Il Podestà (who has a passion for Sandrina), and he’s pretending to be Sandrina’s cousin.
If this isn’t bad enough, we see during the overture the reason Sandrina and the Count broke up — he scuttled off after thinking he had killed her. Odd business, its recollection halts the Count’s impending marriage to Il Podestà’s niece Arminda when her admirer Ramiro accuses the Count of murdering Violante. At this point Sandrina reveals herself to be Violante, though she previously denied it, even saying she witnessed Violante’s death. But then she claims her about-face is merely a ruse to save the Count, so no wonder he becomes unhinged and she too.
Violent passion, pretence and confusion weave their way through Mozart’s music, superbly conducted by music director Robin Ticciati with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Mozart wrote it when he was only eighteen, and this is the earliest of his operas — nine so far — put on by Glyndebourne.
For this one Frederic Wake-Walker’s lively production emphasises the pretence inherent in the opera, with Antony McDonald’s designs allowing walls and windows to be torn apart. Towards the end of Act II people even burst in through the windows, and after a wall of the house falls to the ground just missing Belfiore, he grabs a stage rope on a pulley to drag most of the set up and away, revealing a misty forest grove where the lovers have to find one another again. After they do, the other five praise finta and faithfulness, before the servants, now also in love, tumble over with a delighted squeal.
Terrific movement and choreography, excellent lighting by Lucy Carter, and the singing was a delight. Christiane Karg as Sandrina produced lovely soft notes and excellent clarity, and in the travesti role of Ramiro, Rachel Frenkel sang beautifully, with a particularly glorious aria in Act II. Joelle Harvey’s sparkling performance of Sandrina’s servant Serpetta contrasted with the strong haughtiness of Nicole Heaston in her glorious dresses as the favourite niece Arminda. Joel Prieto made an exceptionally stylish Count Belfiore, Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke gave a well-nuanced portrayal of the Podestà, and although Gyula Orendt’s bad throat left him only able to sing the recitatives, his dramatic performance of the Podestà’s servant Nardo was superb, and Gavan Ring produced glorious sounds for Nardo’s arias from front stage left.
If you love Mozart this well-pruned early opera is whopping fun, and his music allows the singers to give scintillating performances.
Following this first night, performances continue on various dates until August 21 — for details click here.