Opera Scotland

Finta giardiniera 2017Ryedale Festival Opera

Read more about the opera Finta giardiniera

The Ryedale Festival has performed an opera in the theatre of Ampleforth College, North Yorkshire, each year for some time now. This is the third occasion when they have spread their wings to bring an opera staging north, to the Lammermuir Festival in Musselburgh and also to let Perth audiences see a rare work. This year the choice fell on Mozart, with what was the Scottish professional premiere of his early comedy La Finta Giardiniera - the Fake Garden Girl, or The Garden of Disguises.

Presented in Munich in 1775, when the composer was only eighteen, it will never be ranked among his greatest hits, but it was a fascinating experience all the same. The Garden of Disguises is notable for the constant foretastes of what he would soon achieve, in arias and ensembles. There are sudden flashes, not just in the style of Figaro, but also of Idomeneo and even Clemenza di Tito - the later works always showing greater subtlety and economy. It is a charming pastoral comedy that may perhaps not be a masterpiece. However it contains some amusing situations. It really should be performed more often than it is, and this revival is very welcome.

The little orchestra of eleven under Eamonn Dougan provided excellent support for the seven singers. The players were on stage, placed behind an attractively designed screen. Nina Brazier kept the direction simple. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment Experience Ensemble consisted of a string quintet, three winds (two oboes, one bassoon), two horns and a fortepiano to accompany the recitatives - some of which were only rediscovered in the 1970s.

Alice Privett led the excellent young cast as Violante, an aristocratic lady who has fled from her violent fiancé, Count Belfiore (Kieran Carrel) to work as a garden girl on the estate of the local mayor (Robin Horgan), a wealthy, middle-aged bachelor. Her servant Roberto, also in disguise (Harry Thatcher), and pretending to be her cousin, protects her while falling in love with the mayor's servant girl Serpetta (Jessica Cale).

This girl loves her master, however, and ignores a mere gardener. The other characters are the Mayor's wealthy niece Arminda, who is now engaged to Belfiore, and a gentleman who loves her, Don Ramiro. Confused relationships develop to entertaining effect.                                                                           
Nina Brazier has shown her talent as a director in previous years, with both Monteverdi and Handel. Mozart suits her well. The last two offerings, The Coronation of Poppea and Alcina were staged in a highly imaginative but simple style, while the Mozart followed the same principles, emphasising clarity of plot outline. The opera is notorious for its inappropriate length, so the cuts were perhaps necessary. It is hard to tell whether they made the plot difficulties more awkward.                                                        

As before, John Warrack had prepared a new English translation. The new title was neatly appropriate, The Garden of Disguises. However while the English sang well the text sometimes seemed out of line with the recitatives.

Performance Cast

Don Anchise Mayor (Podestà) of Lagonero

Robin Horgan

Marchesa Violante Onesti in disguise as 'Sandrina' a garden-girl

Alice Privett

Count Belfiore betrothed to Arminda

Kieran Carrel

Arminda Don Anchise's wealthy niece

Clare Tunney

Don Ramiro a young gentleman

Anna Harvey

Serpetta maidservant to Don Anchise

Jessica Cale

Roberto the Marchesa's servant, in disguise as 'Nardo'

Harry Thatcher

Performance DatesFinta giardiniera 2017

Map List

Perth Concert Hall | Perth

21 Sep, 19.15

Brunton Theatre | Musselburgh, East Lothian

22 Sep, 19.15

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