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La Finta Giardiniera

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This early Mozart opera features a countess who impersonates a girl gardener. It's filled with intrigue, conflicted amours, and plot complications. Everybody gets sorted out and married at the end. It is probably a difficult opera to bring off, despite Mozart's wonderful melodies. But I imagine it could be quite funny. I don't know, because the New York City Opera production (created for Florida Grand Opera) doesn't really try. It sets the piece in a loony bin, where all the characters are inmates. A psychiatrist introduces it and walks around during the opera in his lab coat, carrying a clip board. The supertitles say things like "These people are all psychotic." The singers are asked to crawl around and act crazy when they're not singing. At least they are in the first of this production's two acts. I left at intermission. The singers deserved better. The set by Michael Yeargan and the lighting by Robert Wierzel reminded me of the movie "The Road to Wellville." (I thought that T.C. Boyle novel was terrific and the movie so-so.) The director of this mess was Mark Lamos. He gets a lot of operatic work despite his apparent dislike of the form.

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I saw a setting of this once, which had a more amiable concept. The characters were all "patients" at a Victorian "neurasthenia" sanatarium, and while they were all somewhat loopy, and much given to taking the waters, straight or otherwise, they were more sympathetic than this one sounds.

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I've never seen Mark Lamos' work...however, I've heard enough to keep me from rushing out and buying tickets. I understand thinking and getting outside of the box, but sometimes this gets carried too far and one can't even see the box they've gotten out of.

Mozart operas are truly little gems and are capable of taking the opera goer from one emotional extreme to the next, if done properly with sensitivity. I had the good fortune of singing in several Mozart operas under the stage direction of Timothy Fink out of Illinois. He is now the director of opera at Southern Illinois University. Truly a wonderful director! If only he could take the opera world by storm. However, he is a true teacher...his students come before him!

Kathy

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