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Mozart – La Finta Semplice

Salzburg Festival 2006

Deutsche Grammophon – DVD 072 4251 GH – 130 minutes

Conductor – Michael Hofstetter

Stage Director & Choreographer – Joachim Schlomer

Designer – Jens Kilian


Rosina – Malin Hartelius

Don Cassandro – Josef Wagner

Don Polidoro – Matthias Klink

Giacinta – Marina Comparato

Ninetta – Silvia Moi

Fracasso – Jeremy Ovenden

Simone – Miljenko Turk


The 2006 Mozart Anniversary brought a plethora of productions of his operas, far more than most of us had appetite for in one year. The Salzburg Festival, with bountiful zeal, presented each and every one of them, and these are now being issued on DVD marked with an M22 logo.


The short trailer for the series gives mouth watering glimpses of the pleasures on offer, and I immediately noted a clutch of “must have” titles, but the first opera which I have viewed in full has a proved a sad disappointment.


La Finta Semplice is Mozart's third opera, written when he was 12 years of age; an unsophisticated comedy involving a quartet of lovers and two eccentric brothers. Treated with a light touch, in the spirit in which it was intended, it can be a charming and amusing entertainment, viz William Kerley's production for the Guildhall School of Music & Drama


For Salzburg Joachim Slomer chooses a much more oblique approach. Jens Kilian has produced an all-white set, with four triangular white tilted platforms whose apexes almost meet at the centre of the stage. The effect is bit like looking into a kaleidoscope, and provides a framework for climbing up and sliding down.


The cast are attired uniformly in ungainly white, with the exception of an extra character, the Auctoritas (in the Latin sense one whose pronouncements carry more weight than mere advice but fall short of commands). For this spoken role Marianne Hamre is dressed in a trendy yellow jumpsuit, and delivers her colloquial German commentary with assurance.


You might think that a bit of commentary would help a weakish plot, but in this case it practically destroys it. For virtually the whole of Act I it replaces Mozart's conversational recitatives and the poor singers stand about looking uncomfortable until they are waved forward to sing their arias – even then no acting is permitted, just a series of exaggerated gestures looking more like semaphore than any natural movement.


From Scene IX onwards the recitatives are restored, in part at least. One senses an immediate lift and something recognisable as a drama at last begin to unfold. The mock battle, Cospetton, copettonaccio , between Cassandro and Fracasso is carried out in slick cartoon fashion by video projection.


But it is all too late to mend the situation, and the absence of laughter from the audience confirms the stolid atmosphere of the evening.


And what a pity that is! Michael Hofstetter sets a jaunty pace, the Camerata Salzburg are on top form and there is a young cast of fine performers giving of their best. When allowed to, they deliver the recitatives very crisply, and they are all good Mozart singers, especially Silvia Moi (Ninetta) and Josef Wagner (Don Cassandro).


A couple of arias are cut for no apparent reason: Ninetta's Ella vuole ed io torrei and Fracasso's In voi, belle, e leggiadra . Together with the loss of so much recitative, Mozart's original is truncated by around 20 minutes, and contributes far less than it should to this “complete” cycle.


Serena Fenwick


Photo credit Salzburger Festspiele