Sheer musical intricacy and inspired lunacy in Glyndebourne La Finta Giardiniera

NAXOS has just released a DVD of a charming 2014 Glyndebourne production of Mozart’s 1775 treasure LA FINTA GIARDINIERA.

With a good looking international ensemble made up of European Mozartians, beautifully led by Diego Fasolis at the helm of the Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, playing on period instruments, and performed on the stage of the Milan Opera House where the show was revived in 2018, the results are very nice indeed.

Predating in 1775 the DaPonte comic collaborations of Mozart’s mid-career, LA FINTA GIARDINIERA anticipates in its many enchantingly complex ensembles and singer-friendly arias the greatness of things to come over the next sixteen years of Mozart’s all too-brief life.

The roles in LA FINTA GIARDINIERA are not particularly challenging, demanding simply a good command of the Mozart style and a proper penchant for the Italian language, fleshed out in the libretto attributed to a certain Giuseppe Petrosellini.

In the cast of seven principals everyone gets his or her moment, with a couple arias each. The story is vintage 18th century comedy, with a subtle frisson between the upper and the serving classes, which stage director Frederic Wake-Walker elegantly pinpoints without driving things too bluntly. In fact, his deft staging never goes too far in making things obvious: the upstairs-downstairs divisiveness and the rampant randy goings on are already vividly present in the story and in Mozart’s ever seductive music.

Gems abound: the opening quintet Che lieto giorno is pure musical sunshine, Sandrina’s Geme la tortorella is a plaintive cantilena to melt the heart, and the finales of Act I and Act II foretell the genius creations of the Mozart of Nozze di Figaro in many minutes each of sheer musical intricacy and inspired lunacy.

The buffo bass-baritone role of Nardo has the DNA of the Figaro, Leporello and Guglielmo of years to come, with the aria Con un vezzo all’Italiana among the many moments of sheer musical gold sung to perfection by the superlative Mattia Olivieri.

Each and every one of the seven principals shine in their roles: the silvery-voiced soprano Julie Martin du Theil as Sandrina, the bright-voiced Annett Fritsch as Arminda, the pert soubrette Giulia Semenzato as an ideal Serpetta, and the fine lyric mezzo-soprano Lucia Cirillo in the pants role of Ramiro all four make up the female contingent. The excellent Croatian tenor Kresimir Spicer as Don Anchise, and, in the role of Belfiore the superb lyric tenor Bernard Richter complete the cast.

Antony McDonald designed the elegantly appointed set and the stylish costumes, beautifully lit by Lucy Carter, with Daniela Vismara directing the excellently realized film version.

Rafael de Acha         ALL ABOUT THE ARTS