La Giardiniera Come Lately: René Jacobs with Rain Check Mozart in Madrid

SpainSpain  W. A. Mozart, La Finta Giardiniera: Soloists, Freiburger Barockorchester, René Jacobs (conductor), Teatro Real de Madrid. 05.10.2011 (JMI)

Concert version

Arminda: Alexandrina Pendatchanska
Sandrina: Sophie Karthäuser
Serpetta: Sunhae Im
Ramiro: Marie-Claude Chappuis
Podestá: Jeffrey Francis
Belfiore: Jeremy Ovenden
Nardo: Michael Nagy

This concert performance of one of young Mozart’s operas came to Teatro Real with a ten month delay. It had been announced last season but was cancelled due to the air controllers’ strike in Madrid last December. Better late than never, in this case, as the performers and performance were well worth waiting for.

René Jacobs usually makes an annual European tour with an unusual opera in the luggage. Last season it was La Finta Giardiniera, this season it will be Haydn’s Orlando Paladino. Rene Jacobs’ standards in these concerts are very high and his cast always very well balanced. This time there was no exception to the rule.

available at Amazon
W.A.Mozart, La Finta Giardiniera,
Ivor Bolton / Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg
V.Gens, J.M.Ainsley, A.Reinprecht et al.

La Finta Giardiniera is not one of the masterpieces by Mozart, with a weak libretto and in the hands of a routine conductor it can be rather boring. This is how I remember it the last time I had chance to see it, some 15 years ago in Nice. René Jacobs made something of it, though, with an extraordinarily lively reading, sparkling and highly entertaining, not the least thanks to the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, one of the great baroque groups today.

The characters, however one dimensional, were very well served by the cast, all of them moved about the stage with great ease, and none of them had to resort to the score. Three remarkable, well-chosen sopranos ranged from light (Serpetta – outstanding, Sunhae Im who would be excellent Despina or Zerlina material), to lyric (Arminda – remarkable, apart from an out-of-control top register, Alexandrina Pendatchanska), to light-lyric (Sandrina – moving, Sophie Karthäuser). Add two tenors, a light one (Belfiore – with gusto and softness all night, the increasingly interesting Jeremy Ovenden), one of medium strength (Podesta – better acting than singing, Jeffrey Francis), a mezzo-soprano (Ramiro – with very touching arias, Marie-Claude Chappuis, originally a countertenor), and finally a buffo bass-baritone (Nardo – with a sonorous voice of good quality but little buffo-talent, Michael Nagy, who sang Wolfram at Bayreuth this last summer) and you had a even cast of fine quality, without outliers on the lesser end of the quality scale.

The audience, at about 80 percent capacity, received the first half coolly but warmed up as the concert progressed, ending with an arm reception to all the artists and, above all, René Jacobs and the orchestra.

José Mª Irurzun