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Mozart – La Finta Giardiniera

Don Anchise – John Graham-Hall

Violante Onesti – Alexandra Reinprecht

Belfiore – John Mark Ainsley

Arminda – Veronique Gens

Ramiro – Ruxandra Donose

Serpetta – Adriana Kucerova

Roberto disguised as Nardo – Markus Werba


Conductor – Ivor Bolton

Stage Director – Doris Dorrie

Designer – Bernd Lepel

Video Director – Agnes Meth


Filmed at Salzburg Festival 2006

Deutsche Grammophon – 073 4222 GH2 2 DVDs – 161 minutes


“What an unexpectedly awkward day” sings John Mark Ainsley (Belfiore) as he stands pinned between the spikes of a giant cactus and threatened by angry women brandishing a variety of lethal looking garden implements. More than awkward as it turns out, as he is subsequently swallowed whole by a Venus Fly Trap. .


But, I am jumping ahead, on the next of Salzburg's M22 offerings … Proceedings get off to a conventional enough start in an 18th century boudoir. During the overture we witness the violent disagreement between Belfiore and Violante from which he flees believing her to be dead. Their eighteenth century world dissolves and Violante is transported, still in period costume, to a new persona (Sandrina) and contemporary setting. In fact a warehouse where dexion shelving is laden with garden goods, though there is not quite enough lighting to make out all the details, bright yellow signs bearing a crossed spade and fork logo indicate that everything is a bargain.


Don Anchise is the Manager and his maid Serpetta wanders around price gun in hand. Ramiro and Arminda arrive in modern dress, but Belfiore, the last to arrive, is still in his powdered wig – but nobody seems to notice. Members of the Salzburger Landestheater Supporting Ensemble occupy themselves unloading deliveries of new stock or changing the central display. From time to time the Dance Company appear as living statues or giant plants to augment the action and Sandrina's nightmare scene is presided over by a colossal spider ands various other creepy crawlies


It all adds up to a very busy staging that is a long way from the original story, but would generally make entertaining viewing if it didn't so over labour the action. Ivor Bolton, who seems to have a special fondness for this opera, is on the conductor's podium, and he has a good orchestra and excellent singers to work with - John Mark Ainsley (Belfiore) stands out as does Ruxandra Donose as Ramiro


Six arias are omitted, with Don Anchise being deprived of four (leaving John Graham-Hall with little to sing), and it is particularly sad to loose the delightful cavatina for Serpetta and Nardo Un marito, oh Dio, vorrei.


For a rarely performed opera La Finta Giardiniera is very well served on DVD. There are versions from Drottingholm and Stuttgart (both on Arthaus Musik ref 102 007 & 101 253) and an exceptionally good one from Zurich. That production really is fun, and under the musical directorship of Nikolaus Harnoncourt it provides the fullest account of Mozart's score, making it easily a first choice.


Serena Fenwick



Photo credit Christian Schneider


- - The Salzburg DVD is worth exploring as a way of becoming acquainted with a fascinating score – but you might want to keep your eyes shut.- - (Musical Criticism)