Sunday, 20 September 2009

La Finta Gardiniera @The Estates Theatre: Mozart & Dwarves

La Finta Gardiniera was finished when Mozart was only 18 years old. His arguably longest opera, in the old style of a looot of repeating in the arias, can probably be a tad bit... ahem... boring. Not so in the production of Ursel and Karl-Ernst Herrmann.

Their more than twenty year old production of this underperformed opera, obviously televised in 1989, leaves little to be desired. Unlike their Clemenza di Tito, which I saw in this theatre two years ago and where they committed many UIF (UnIntentionally Funny) and WTF crimes , this production was very funny in the light Mozartean fashion.

Yes, I was a little worried when it began with a dwarf reciting Heinrich Heine while crawling up from the underground. However, within some twenty minutes, it was clear that it would be a pleasant evening. The Herrmanns' clever and fast-paced direction was (nearly) fully supportive to Mozart's almost Shakespearean comedy. Unlike many "modernized" productions, it was not trying to be "wiser than the author," and the sets offered a basis for many comic gigs. There was no ugliness or violence, so necessarily present in many today's productions. Nothing of the sets was there just pro forma, and even the shy Czech audience (well, at least half were Czech...) found it too difficult to muffle their laughter at times.

From the musical standpoint, there are no complaints on my part. Especially as Prague's opera sweethearts, Kateřina Kněžíková and our barihunk Adam Plachetka, were showing off not only their beautiful voices, but also a great deal of comedy talent. Plachetka can also be seen in Vienna, he had the "luck" of appearing in the fugly Salzburg Rusalka, and in three year's time, he will perform Masetto at Covent Garden. However, most of the cast was international, which opens some questions as to whether there are enough reasonably good Czech singers here. All that under the steady baton of Tomáš Netopil's, the new (and very young) chief-conductor of the National Theatre.

Overall impression: 85%

Adam Plachetka & Kateřina Kněžíková
Photos from their respective official sites.

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