Thursday, January 19, 2012


Wuppertal 14 January 2012

© Sam H. Shirakawa
Christian Sturm, Banu Böke

Mozart composed his dark lyric comedy La finta Giardinera for Munich’s Salvator Theater in 1775. It was a resounding success. Five years later, he reworked it as a Singspiel under the title Die Gärtnerin aus Liebe, but the original Italian-language score went missing for 200 years. Rediscovered in the 1970s, Die Gärnterin aus Liebe has since been performed with increasing frequency, sung mostly in Italian under its Italian title.
Just another evening with the folks.

Its climb in popularity, though, could be hindered by its complicated libretto, generally ascribed to Giuseppe Petrosellini. Count Belfiore and the Marchinioness Violante (disguised as a gardner) find themselves under the same roof on the eve of his marriage to Arminda, niece of the town mayor Don Anchise. Belfiore and Violante were lovers before he stabbed her during a quarrel and left her for dead. Violante still wants him back, so she's had herself employed as a gardner at Mayor Anchiuse’s estate in order to nab Belfiore before he weds Arminda.

Is that nutty? You ain't seen nutty yet.  By the time Violante drops her disguise and bags her former squeeze, the audience is treated to five other members of the wedding, who all take their parts in sundry episodes of kidnapping, intrigue and outright madness. Just another evening at home with the folks.
Susanne Blattert, Boris Leisenheimer, Miljan Milovic

In a program note, Tilman Hecker credits Marcel Proust (specifically Swann’s Way) as the flash point for his production at Wuppertal Stages. Indeed, his staging reflects Proust’s creepy elegance, as the characters enter and exit through shifting doors, wearing Lisa Kentner’s couture-conscious costumes, and tread Moritz Nitsche’s flying stairways which usually lead nowhere. All against a stage-wide soundless video scrim that projects the characters pursuing each other in the same setting but in mute states of being.

Clever. But Hecker’s gilded vignettes revealing the comings and, uh, comings of a decadent society struck me as more inclined toward evoking the queasy giddiness aroused by films of the French New Wave such as Last Year at Marienbad: did you/can you really kill your one true love?
Banu Böke, Arantza Ezenarro

The disturbing dream milieu into which Hecker submerges his cast imposes no impediments; the ensemble keeps a grip on the beat and offers some lively singing. Foremost among the resident vocalists: the ever-astounding Banu Böke, who, as Violante, scales Mozart’s flights of angst-ridden ups and downs with the same aplomb she brought to her sagacious Arabella last season. Not to be out-done, Christian Sturm continues to expand his talents stylishly as Count Belfiore. He is that most blessed of creatures, making even more of his heaven-sent gifts every time he turns up.
Christian Sturm

Arantza Ezenaro purveys a strong Arminda. Boris Leisenheimer had issues finding his focus as Arminda’s uncle at the premiere, but he finished satisfactorily.  Miljan Milovic, Suzanne Blattert and Julia Klein round out the superb cast.

Florian Flannek led a cohesive performance, drawing a big bracing sound from the orchestra.

Needless to add, Die Gärtnerin aus Liebe is one of Mozart’s most sombre works for the stage -- a soap opera full of dirty laundry. All the more curious because he was only 18 when he composed it and 23 when he revised it. Imagine how Dark Wave his revisions might be, had he lived past 35...

Photos: Uwe Stratmann

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