"My opera ... was such a success that it is impossible for me to describe
the applause to Mamma," wrote Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to his mother from
Munich on 14 January 1775, the day after the premiere of his new opera
buffa, "La finta giardiniera" (The Make-Believe Gardener) K. 196. Written
for the Munich carnival season, it is not only the first example of a
combination of buffa and seria roles in Mozart's music, but it also carries
its plot of pretense, disguise and surprising revelations to the brink of
Belfiore believes he has killed his betrothed, Violante, in a fit of
jealousy. He flees in panic - which does not prevent him from falling for
Arminda, who then spurns her admirer Ramiro in favor of Belfiore. Violante,
meanwhile, searches for her lover with her servant Roberto. Under a false
name, she takes a post as gardener on the estate of Don Anchise; her
servant passes himself off as her cousin. While Anchise pursues Violante,
Roberto romances the maid. The labyrinth of pursuit and deception becomes
completely entangled when Belfiore, his new conquest Arminda and her
persistent admirer Ramiro turn up on the estate...
The Mozart 22 production of "La finta giardiniera" was placed in the hands
of Doris Dörrie, a noted filmmaker ("Men") and, more recently, director of
controversial opera productions ("Rigoletto" in Munich). Asked why she set
the work in a garden center, Dörrie replied: "It's a market of emotions!
The plants represent feelings, the garden is our little paradise. [...] We
all have the same dream ..., which is why we buy so much equipment,
chemicals, even weapons to keep our garden under control. It must be kept
in its boundaries, for just as an uncontrolled garden can mutate into a
wild jungle, so can uncontrolled emotions, proliferating like wild plants,
become dangerous to us."
The rousing musical underpinnings of this irreverent production are
provided by the Mozarteum Orchestra under its principal conductor Ivor
Bolton, who has made a name for himself as champion of authentic and
spirited interpretations of Handel, Monteverdi, Gluck and, of course,
Mozart. In this performance of "La finta giardiniera," Bolton makes it
clear that the real dramatic development in this early work is to be found
in Mozart's music.