It’s taken Glyndebourne eighty years to get round to doing La Finta Giardiniera, the rarely-performed dramma giocoso Mozart wrote when he was eighteen.
The plot, punctuated by faints and fits of madness, may be impossible to take seriously, but, with director Frederic Wake-Walker at the controls and Robin Ticciati catching the idiom in the pit, it emerges with irresistible charm.
Wake-Walker’s decision to set it in the crumbling ruin of a Baroque German pleasure-dome (exquisitely lit by Lucy Carter) allows the action to float free of time and place; the semi-deranged characters are all looking for love.
Mozart’s dramaturgy may still have been unsure, but his musical genius was fully-fledged: many of the arias and orchestral effects are worthy of Cosi, as this talented and predominantly young cast demonstrate (their one senior member, Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke, predictably mines his character, the Mayor, for broad comedy).
Nicole Heaston presents Arminda as a coloratura-wielding dominatrix, while Rachel Frenkel’s cross-dressed Ramiro evinces bruised nobility; Christiane Karg’s Sandrina has a fullness of tone which nicely offsets the restrained grace of Joel Prieto’s singing as Belfiore; Joelle Harvey creates some arrestingly beautiful moments as the servant Serpetta; hit by a throat infection, Gyula Orendt (Nardo) had to mime on the first night, but a coruscating offstage performance by his cover Gavan Ring deservedly stole the show.