Tag Archives: Frederic Wake-Walker

Final Finta

19 Aug

Dear Glyndebourne,

Please take your time.  I am a patient man and you have earned considerable respect and affection, but can you please tell why, for the love of any deity you care to believe in, you thought it was a good idea to put on La finta giardiniera, which I had the misfortune to see on 18th August.

It’s not that it was a bad performance, it’s that the opera is a complete stinker.  Once you get into Act II, I defy anyone to tell what is really going one, who is in love with whom or pretending to be in love with whom or why it matters.  There isn’t a single attractive character in the piece.  Motivation is perplexing, to put it kindly, though un-considered is probably more accurate.  And there is “pleasant enough aria that slightly outstays its welcome” after “pleasant enough aria that badly outstays its welcome” without anything more.  You get fed up of the ghastly little show-off of a composer that Mozart evidently was at 18 (yes, I saw Amadeus at Chichester recently).  As to the finale to the second Act, just when you think it’s going to end, another section comes along and you realise that it could go on like this forever.  No wonder, Frederic Wake-Walker was reduced to getting his characters to tear up the scenery to keep our interest going.  That’s what I wanted to do to the score.

Alright, I will grant you that there are moments where what is to come shines through.  I’m thinking of the finale to the first Act – where, suddenly, you realise that Mozart was, at heart, an ensemble composer and, rather like the quartet in Entfuhrung, everything begins to mean something.  There’s Nardo’s aria, originally in the first Act, here moved to the end, which reminds you of Aprite un po in Figaro and makes you wish that you were hearing that instead.  And the Sandrina/Belfiore reconciliation has some beauties.  Otherwise, I had a distinct sense of an audience slowly wilting and losing the will to live.  Rossini might have made something of it and at least there’d have been some decent ensembles and strettas.

Perhaps it was Robin Ticciati’s fault.  He clearly loves the score, but did he love it too much?  Were the textures just too heavy, the tempi a bit on the slow side and exaggerated?  Probably not.  There’s a limit to what you can do with a squib like this.  The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment were, of course, great – and I hope they’re playing some real, late Mozart soon.

There was a really good cast, too.  Christiane Karg, a lovely Aricie last year, seized Sandrina’s opportunities and sang really gorgeously begging the question, Glyndebourne, of why on earth you weren’t casting her as Susanna or Pamina.  Similarly, Nicole Heaston had a high time camping up the ghastly Arminda and sang strongly – you could have cast her as Elvira, for example – and Gyula Orendt sang his aria so well and displayed an engaging personality, making me wish that you’d cast him as Figaro in either or its last two performances here.  Joel Prieto as Belfiore displayed a pleasant, light voice as Belfiore and it would be nice to see him as Fenton or Rinuccio or even Ottavio.

I was slightly less taken by Joelle Harvey as Serpetta and Rachel Frankel’s rather anonymous Ramiro but both sang very nicely. Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke sang his arias very well and displayed a very nice sense of humour as the rather fussy Mayor.  He plays character roles so often here that it was good to hear him sing a legato tenor role so successfully.

Frederic Wake-Walker attempted to make the piece interesting.  It was set firmly in the 18th century – suggestions of a Clarissa-like rape or argument during the overture in a set suggesting a down-at-heel baroque palace – also perhaps parodying pictures of Glyndebourne’s sets for Mozart operas in its early days.  He also set it in a theatre – and it looked as though many of the characters, at times, were simply marionettes.  As Sandrina and Belfiore go mad, they demolish the set and, at the end of the (thank God) heavily cut third Act, the went off in the woods together, leaving the remaining characters to sing the epilogue.  I had the feeling of someone trying too hard to keep us interested and I found myself becoming more and more irritated as the lengthy, irrelevant action went on and on and on.

So Glyndebourne, there are lots of other better operas you could have done and I resent your wasting my time and money and your talented cast on this one.  I suppose that I can at least be grateful that I’m now convinced that the piece doesn’t work and, if I have anything to do with it, this will be the last time I ever see it.  Please don’t do it again.