Saturday, 22 November 2014

Bunking off for an afternoon in the garden

La Finta Giardiniera (Glyndebourne Tour, cond. Moulds)

If Thomas Hood had lived in 2014 he might not have found November to be such an intolerable month; for had been a fan of opera, he might have trudged off to Milton Keynes on a chilly Thursday afternoon. Warmth and joy may not be the first words to jump to your mind. Glyndebourne’s gardens may be closed to the opera-going public just now, but we were able to bask in some artificial sun in the transportable tour production of the Finta Giardiniera.

As part of the education programme, large numbers of (impeccably-behaved) school children were invited to possibly their first taste of opera. A lady introduced the opera briefly at the start, and emphasized that it was about layers of falsehood and the damaging effects on the characters of not being themselves. This effectively set up the drama for everyone, and was much appreciated. The opera’s weakness is that the plot is actually quite complex and suffers in the way Fidelio does.
Musically, it does the Mozart thing of lifting you an inch or two up off the ground, and you float along on a little stream through the gardens. It’s early Mozart, so it doesn’t quite have the pace or power found in later Mozart, but hints of the greatness to come are there to hear. He was only eighteen when he wrote it. The sort of fact which surely makes us all feel inadequate.

At the start I had a moment of apprehension: during the quintet, I wondered, were these voices strong enough? But almost immediately they warmed up, and it cannot be said that any of the voices were weak at all. This did all the things the GT productions do so well. Found up-and-coming talent, took ambitious productions to the provinces, lavishly produced.

The whole thing was set in a baroque salon – a garden room by the windows. The First Act’s staging was of ordinary solidity; the second’s was paper, and totally wrecked by the end and deliberately destroyed – tearing down falsehood. A “running set” presumably. The paper setup could be pierced by shoe and singer: presumably a reference to Amadeus. All the trickery, falsehood, pretence and gilt work was the perfect setting for the subject matter. Against it light and shadows projected and obscured. It created a generous and layered space. After all, this has to fit the smallest dimension of various – not just the lowest common denominator, but the narrowest, shallowest too. It also has to be easily transportable in a fashion not required at the festival. I recollect that it received lukewarm reviews –on the basis that it was good production of a difficult work. On Tour, there was a very serious attempt to shine through the slight mistiness of November. For the audience there was much healthful ease. More apt that one might think, Hood reckoned ‘No recognitions of familiar people/ No courtesies for showing ‘em/No knowing ‘em.’

Movement showed the benefit of full rehearsal periods, with some really clever choreography.

As part of the education programme, worthy of rather more discussion that it is being given here, a really super site has been developed There was also a booklet – a sort of Kobbé for children – of which one had been dropped, and by which I was very impressed. Grownups would appreciate this sort of thing, especially for anything which is above the complexity of being explainable with condiments on the lunch table beforehand. Salt and pepper pots have their limitations.

Overall – a wonderful diversion. Early Mozart bound to charm.

Conductor: Christopher Moulds
Mayor: Timothy Robinson
Sandrina: Rosa Feola
Ramior: Hanna Hipp
Serpetta: Eliana Pretorian
Nardo (Roberto): Mattia Olivieri
Arminda: Eleonore Marguerre
Count Belfiore: Enea Scala

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