Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Mozart - La Finta Giardiniera / Zagrosek Reinprecht Shankle Costea Staatsoper Stuttgart|
Actors: Alexandra Reinprecht, Norman Shankle, Irena Bespalovaite, Helene Schneiderman, Cellia Costea
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Great music, disappointing staging
Sara Ciborski | Temple, NH, USA | 03/19/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I recommend this Staatsoper Stuttgart production for a fine performance of Mozart's richly orchestrated music by the Staatsorchester Stuttgart under conductor Lothar Zagrosek, and for the singing, which for the most part is quite wonderful. Cellia Costea as Arminda and Alexandra Reinprecht as Sandrina-Violante are outstanding. I also very much liked Rudolf Rosen as Nardo and Irena Bespalovaite as Serpetta. However, I found the setting and staging disappointingly inappropriate to the opera's themes, more on which below. The costumes, which are traditional, are marvelous.
The full opera on the CD version that I own lasts over three hours. This Stuttgart production takes liberties with the score and libretto: it is only 139 minutes, omits several arias--I counted 8 missing--and reorders scenes, especially in Acts II and III. I am not knowledgeable enough about opera to know if such changes are acceptable or legitimate; in any case they are my reason for 3 instead of 4 stars. La Finta Giardiniera is a mixed genre piece with elements of both opera buffa and opera seria. Some Mozart commentators that I have read criticize the plot as chaotic or confusing. Perhaps this would justify some cutting and rearranging, but in my opinion the plot is no more confusing or complex that that of, say, Le Nozze di Figaro, which no one would dare cut (I hope).
While praising the music as delightful throughout, some critics also disparage La Finta Giardiniera for its poorly developed characters. Alfred Einstein ("Mozart: His Character, His Work") calls them "types." Robert Gutman ("Mozart: A Cultural Biography") calls them "...types, schematic figures engaged in conventional harlequinades..." yet grants them "graded contours." This estimation of the characters as types must have inspired the odd and to me unpleasant staging of this production, as well as some characters' peculiar stylized gesticulations such as the mechanical-doll gestures they make during the Act I finale. As the performance opens, the characters are standing in a set of doorways set in a bright yellow wall that spans the width of the stage. In Act II this setting is replaced by a giant kind of fan structure that forms the backdrop for the scenes in which Belfiore is accused of his crime and begins to fall into madness--nothing about this setting creates an atmosphere that would support what he is expressing. The grotto scene is simply a dark, empty stage, and when the light comes on we again see the doors in the yellow wall. At the end of the Act II finale, Sandrina and Belfiore, both fallen into madness, roll about on the stage embracing each other; I found the contrast between their singing--the music is marvelous here--and their ridiculous postures, slightly off-putting. The doors remain for Act III and their final duet, "Tu me lasci," another breath-taking musical moment, is marred by this absurd and inappropriate background. And at the very end all the characters, including Sandrina and Belfiore, return to doorways. Perhaps this repeat of the opening image is intended to suggest that the characters are artificial cutout figures, acting from involuntary emotions, cast unchangeably in their roles. But Sandrina is not artificial and Belfiore eventually changes. Nicholas Till in his excellent study of Mozart's operas, "Mozart and the Enlightenment", has a more generous evaluation of the characterization, viewing characters' status as caricatures as a positive quality. He says the plot is Shakespearean and belongs to the abundant stream of Pamela plots--virtuous maiden in distress--that followed publication of Richardson's novel. La Finta Giardiniera needs to be understood in the context of the emergent bourgeois culture of the times that was discovering individual feelings as a sound basis for morality (as opposed to Church or State), expressed in art as an "aesthetics of sensibility." The heroine of this opera is "quick to lay claim to the independent authority and dignity" of her feelings and is "one of the finest examples of operatic sensibility." I think the staging of this production insufficiently supports this. True, her first aria (it should be her second, but the first is omitted) is sung in a circle of white light that highlights the sincerity of her feelings. But in the final doorway image she is one among the others. Till also singles out Ramiro as different from the others in retaining his integrity; his arias are heartfelt and noble. But in this production he rather ignobly strikes out at Arminda at the end.
But to return to the settings, a basic theme of this opera is the opposition between nature and artifice. The libretto indicates that the setting for Act I and the end of Act III is a garden: the garden functions importantly in opposition to the wilderness of the grotto, and it represents--at the outset--social artifice, and--at the end--the reintegration of nature and society. The doorways, fan device, and empty stage in the grotto scene--none are adequate to this theme. A garden setting is integral to the plot of La Finta Giardiniera. Productions that dispense with the garden (and it appears that many do so) lose the atmosphere essential for conveying this theme.
Mozart's gorgeous music makes this DVD worth watching, notwithstanding my review of the staging. There are no extras."