As part of my Mozart marathon, I saw this production of La Finta Giardiniera having been impressed by Drottingholm's 1991 production of Idomeneo. And it was an absolute gem, not just the production but the opera. The opera may not quite be in my top 5 Mozarts(Le Nozze Di Figaro, Die Zauberflote, Don Giovanni, Cosi Fan Tutte and Idomeneo), but it is wonderfully theatrical and comedic with a sparkling yet challenging continuous-in style score.
This production is just delightful in every respect. Visually it is accurate to the time the opera is set and is sumptuous, both in sets and costuming. What was also impressive about the production values was how much was done to make things work in such a limited space. The DVD presentation is also pleasing with good sound, clear picture quality and interesting camera work.
Musically, it doesn't get better than this. I don't need to say how good Mozart's music is, you can hear for yourself what a genius he was even from an early age. The orchestra are rhythmic, accurate, authentic and incisive, and Arnold Ostman's conducting is exciting and authoritative while never rushed or broad. The staging is always entertaining and moves seamlessly from one scene to the next.
Performances are fantastic. Richard Croft can occasionally have a vibrato that is on the quick and somewhat bleaty side, but he sings with great agility and elasticity, and he is very athletic on stage. Not only that, while he is genuinely funny often, the pathos of the role of the count shines through as well. Britt Marie-Aruhn excels in the title role, meeting the comedic and tragic aspects of the character perfectly. These two really bring the house down in their duet, it is one of the more difficult parts of the opera due to the timing but Croft and Aruhn sing and play with effortless style and charm.
Ann Christine Biel is wonderfully calculating, and comes very close to stealing the show in a number of places. The singing is as good as you would expect, with lots of warmth and musicality, and Biel plays Serpetta with real professionalism. Annika Skoglund is a sympathetic and moving Ramiro, the voice is warm if once or twice a tad shrill under pressure. Her presence is suitably handsome and masculine.
Eva Pilat gives a fiery performance here, from start to finish the role of the spoilt princess is a vocal and dramatic firework display. Pilat is suitably nasty yet makes the audience learn to love her, and throughout she is very commanding. Petteri Salomaa is a joy, he shows great skill as a physical comic actor, he has some of the best facial expressions I've seen from anybody on the opera stage and his voice is one of many colours.
Stuart Kale sings the role of Don Anchise as though it was made for him, he sinks his teeth literally and is gleefully enjoyable as the man who tries to run the show. Nice tenor voice as well. So all in all, a gem, if you haven't heard the opera as long as you are not quite expecting Mozart top 5 material you will love it. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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