Opera Scotland

Finta giardiniera La finta giardiniera; The Fake Garden-girl; Sandrina's Secret

Music

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (born Salzburg, 27 January 1756; died Vienna, 5 December 1791)

Text

Giuseppe Petrosellini.

 

Premieres

First Performance: Munich (Salvatortheater), 13 January 1775.

First Performance in UK: London (Scala Theatre), 7 January 1930.

First Performance in Scotland: Glasgow (New Athenaeum Theatre), 20 January 1996.

Scottish Opera premiere: n/a.

 

Background

The libretto was for many years considered to be an adaptation by Marco Coltellini of a piece by Ranieri di Calzabigi (Gluck's librettist for Orfeo ed Euridice). Nowadays it is usually attributed to Petrosellini. Whoever the responsible author may have been, it had been produced initially in 1774, for a comic opera by Pasquale Anfossi, premiered in Rome. There is little doubt that, while the libretto contains some excellent ideas, it is poorly structured, and overlong for its material.

The text has also created difficulties in performance, since until a few years ago the original Italian recitatives were lost. It has been played in German, as a singspiel with dialogue, with that version adapted into English, With the recent rediscovery of the original recits more satisfactory Italian productions can now be staged.

La finta giardiniera is generally seen by commentators as containing elements that would be fully developed a decade later in Figaro. Perhaps it is the easy assumption that it is not as good as the later masterpiece - how could it be? - that has led to its neglect. In Britain there have been a handful of major stagings. In 1976 (before the rediscovery of the recits) English Music Theatre, a short-lived expansion of the English Opera Group, mounted it successfully under the user-friendly title Sandrina's Secret. The directors were Colin Graham and Graham Vick, with a cast that included Nan Christie as Violante/Sandrina and Ann Murray as Ramiro. This was toured widely, though not to Scotland. It was also received with some enthusiasm at Glyndebourne in 2014, conducted by Robin Ticciati. The new translation by John Warrack, prepared for Ryedale (2017) introduces the title The Garden of Disguises.

 

Characters

Don Anchise, Mayor of Lagonero (tenor)

Marchesa Violante Onesti, disguised as Sandrina, a garden-girl (soprano)

Count Belfiore, betrothed to Arminda (tenor)

Don Ramiro, a young gentleman in love with Arminda (mezzo-soprano)

Arminda, Don Anchise's niece (soprano)

Serpetta, maidservant to Don Anchise (soprano)

Roberto, Violante's servant, also disguised as Nardo (baritone)

 

Plot summary

The Marchesa Violante Onesti, having quarrelled with Count Belfiore, has disappeared, and is believed to be dead. However she has in fact fled from his violent attentions, though she still loves him. She is accompanied by her faithful servant Roberto, and they have taken employment as gardeners on the estate of the Podestà (Mayor), Don Anchise, using the names Sandrina and Nardo, and claiming to be cousins. Meanwhile, Belfiore has become contracted to marry the Podestà's wealthy niece Arminda, though they have not yet met. That lady is in turn loved by Ramiro, had previously been engaged to him, but has now dumped him in favour of the more socially advantageous marriage to Belfiore. 'Nardo' has fallen for Serpetta, Don Anchise's maid, but she is in love with her master.

Don Anchise has taken a fancy to 'Sandrina'. This annoys Serpetta, who spurns 'Nardo'. Arminda and Belfiore are introduced and seem well suited, though Ramiro is far from happy. Belfiore now encounters 'Sandrina' in the garden, and as she denies her real identity the first act ends in confusion and recriminations on all sides.

Arminda discovers Belfiore writing a letter to Sandrina and is infuriated. However Sandrina still denies that she is the Marchesa, until Don Anchise announces that Belfiore is to be arrested and charged with her murder. She confesses the truth, in order to get the Count off the hook, but when they are alone she again denies her real identity. Arminda is again angry at being thwarted in her search for a titled husband, and threatens Sandrina, who is terrified and runs off into the forest, where she sings sadly of her situation. Nardo arrives, having led Belfiore into the wood to search for her. It is dark in the wood, and the Mayor, his niece and his maid are also wandering lost until they are rescued by Ramiro, with a lantern. But the confusion of Sandrina and Belfiore is now complete, and they are driven to madness.

Nardo himself now feigns insanity, his purpose being to get Serpetta to assist him in restoring order. She is won over because of her recognition that she will not capture Don Anchise. Ramiro is able to break the news to Arminda that his uncle has died, leaving him with a title and great wealth. She accepts that he is now more suitable husband material. The Marchesa and Count are both returned to sanity, and three marriages are arranged - only the Mayor remaining unattached.

The Cast

Arminda
 Don Anchise's wealthy niece
Count Belfiore
 betrothed to Arminda
Don Anchise
 Mayor (Podestà) of Lagonero
Don Ramiro
 a young gentleman
Marchesa Violante Onesti
 in disguise as 'Sandrina' a garden-girl
Roberto
 the Marchesa's servant, in disguise as 'Nardo'
Serpetta
 maidservant to Don Anchise

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