Mozart: La finta giardiniera
René Jacobs has recorded nearly all of the famous late Mozart operas (except Die Entführung aus dem Serail), and he now turns his attention to an accomplished early opera – La finta giardiniera (The Pretend Garden Maid). It was written with Italian text in 1775 for Munich, and then revised in German in 1780 for Augsburg. But this recording is based on a posthumous Prague version dating from 1796, which has an expanded orchestra.
Jacobs’s interpretations are always interesting, but here they slip between the magically unique and the quirky. The magical elements include the beautifully effective new orchestration of the reconciliation duet between the gardener Sandrina and her lover Belfiore (‘Dove mai son’). The quirky includes a tendency in fast passages to thump on the first beat of the bar, and to pull around the tempos (as in Nardo’s aria ‘Va pure’). The cast is uneven, but Sophie Karthaüser as the gardener is effortlessly lyrical (listen to her lovely cavatina, ‘Geme la tortorella’); Michael Nagy as the servant Nardo shows vocal agility and character (in ‘A forza di martelli’); and Marie-Claude Chappuis, playing the young knight Ramiro, has the clearest voice, though it is somewhat too womanly for a role that was originally for a castrato. Sebastian Weidanz accompanies the recitatives on a fortepiano with great dramatic understanding throughout. The sound is an improvement on the Philips recording of this opera (in their Complete Mozart Edition), but that older version still has much to offer in terms of pace and musical insight.