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Mozart: La Finta Giardiniera / Mei, Rey, Harnoncourt

Mozart / Mei / Rey / Schasching / Harnoncourt
Release Date: 09/26/2006 
Label:  Tdk   Catalog #: OPFINT  
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Christoph StrehlLiliana NikiteanuEva MeiIsabel Rey,   ... 
Conductor:  Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zurich Opera Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

La finta giardiniera, premiered in Munich in 1775, was composed when Mozart was just 18. Of all the operas written before his maturity, this opera buffa is by some distance the most interesting: musically ambitious and a pointer to Mozart’s later masterpieces, it is dramatically complex, dealing seriously with genuine emotional entanglements beneath its farcical surface. This Zurich production resets it in the present day. If this inevitably compromises its network of 18thcentury class hierarchies, Tobias Moretti’s well-prepared staging defines characters and relationships with a genuine sense of style, only going too far in the addition of extraneous business to enliven (or rather distract from) the essential action. But it’s more than Read more capably sung and acted, with Eva Mei visually and vocally memorable as the Countess disguised as a gardener, Rudolf Schasching supplying amiable buffoonery as the amorous mayor Don Anchise, and Julia Kleiter enjoying herself as the mayor’s spiky, unruly servant, Serpetta. The other high-born pair – Isabel Rey’s flamboyant Arminda and Christoph Strehl’s vain Belfiore – are wittily satirised as a couple of self-regarding, empty-headed celebs. Visually the show provides good fun in Rolf Glittenberg’s smart new villa set and Renate Martin and Andreas Donhauser’s fashionconscious contemporary costumes. Nikolaus Harnoncourt, working with the well-appointed Zurich Opera’s own in-house period-instrument orchestra, brings flair and insight.

-- George Hall, BBC Music Magazine

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Cast:
Eva Mei (Sandrina)
Isabel Rey (Arminda)
Liliana Nikiteanu (Ramiro)
Christoph Strehl (Belfiore)
Rudolf Schasching (Don Anchise)
Julia Kleiter (Serpetta)
Gabriel Bermudez (Nardo)

Orchestra “La Scintilla” der Oper Zürich
NIKOLAUS HARNONCOURT
Stage Director - Tobias Moretti

Early in this Mozart Anniversary Year, Nikolaus Harnoncourt presented his reading of La Finta Giardiniera, a long-forgotten wonderfully tragicomic opera by the young Mozart. Almost a quarter of a century ago Harnoncourt presented his reading of the rediscovered work on CD, but in this version from the Zurich Opera, the great Mozart magician conducted a staged production for the first time, making the premiere an event in itself. TDK is proud to present Mozart admirers with a DVD of this acclaimed production recorded live in February 2006. The Zurich Opera gathered a star studded cast for this production: Italian soprano Eva Mei sings the Countess Violante, known as Sandrina, the feigned gardener of the title. She is suffering from deep shock after being stabbed by her jealous fiancé Count Belfiore. On meeting him again she denies her true identity and, torn between contempt and forgiveness, flees into insanity. She is a truly tragic heroine, willing to demean herself for the sake of love; and she pays a high price for this. Spanish soprano Isabel Rey is her opponent Arminda, who is to be wed to Belfiore and knows nothing of the stabbing. She is a dominating character, a well-known beauty, who aggressively drives her point home. Arminda’s former lover is the melancholy Cavaliere Ramiro, lovesick and determined to win her back. As a poet and a lover of the arts, he is the last true representative of opera seria, sung here by Romanian Mezzo Liliana Nikiteanu. The maid Serpetta, sung by German soprano Julia Kleiter establishes herself as a dynamic and resourceful young woman, who uses her coquetry to demand special rights – she definitely wants to be more to her master, the mayor Don Anchise, and keeps a jealous eye on Sandrina. Austrian tenor Rudolf Schasching sings the role of the Podestà, or Mayor Don Anchise, a man who cannot control his temper or his urges, but who still holds the reins of power. He is also an elderly lecher not too particular about class-barriers and with a certain predilection for his own employees Serpetta and Sandrina. The German Mozart tenor Christoph Strehl enacts the Count Belfiore, a vain self-absorbed character at the outset of the opera who, on being confronted with his former love Violante, is driven to the verge of madness. He staggers from a past into a future that is past and his character is marked by self-reproach and irresolution. The only loyal ally to the Countess Violante is her servant Roberto who, disguised as her co-gardener Nardo, is torn between his absolute loyalty and the new love of his life, behaving with buffoonish helplessness, somewhat overwhelmed by this late awakening of his feelings – sung here by Spanish baritone Gabriel Bermudez. Tobias Moretti, a popular Austrian actor with a musical background presented this, his second opera staging, to high praise from audience and critics alike. He sees this opera about mistaken identities and true love within a hierarchical order as a play on societal conditions at the onset of the enlightenment. In an essay in the booklet accompanying the disc he explains how „Mozart and his librettist remove veils and coverings from before the eyes, clarifying complex relationships and allowing each individual to achieve a state of lucidity. The end of the opera (…) suggests that they succeed in this, yet (...) Mozart and his librettist create a superficial order and show that true happiness (...) is still removed from that order, because the imposed order has been artificially induced, and originates in (...) the roots of cold, pragmatic discipline. (...) Seen in this light, La finta giardiniera may in many respects be thought of as pointing the way forward to the Enlightenment in its directness and by at least addressing the disappointments felt at the failure to achieve its noble goals. (...) In La finta giardiniera there is no triumph of love, but only its vulnerability and harshness. Healing lies elsewhere, probably in the music.”

This interpretation is supported by the simple and effective stage and costume design by the team Glittenberg/Martin/Dornhauser. The mayor’s symmetrical bungalow marks the setting, mirroring a strong hierarchical order and simple props like tables and gauzes are easily recognized in their changing function as wedding-table, later court table and nuptial bed, or veil and wedding dress – suggesting that the characters at the end find themselves in a topsy-turvy world.

Sound: DD 5.1, DTS 5.1, PCM-STEREO
Picture: 16:9 widescreen
Region: 0 (all)
Running Time: 187 minutes
Subtitles: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish
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Works on This Recording

1. La finta giardiniera, K 196 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Christoph Strehl (Tenor), Liliana Nikiteanu (Soprano), Eva Mei (Soprano),
Isabel Rey (Soprano), Rudolf Schasching (Tenor), Julia Kleiter (Soprano)
Conductor:  Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zurich Opera Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1775; Munich, Germany 

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