We catch up with German soprano Christiane Karg ahead of her appearance at Glyndebourne in the role of Sandrina in Mozart's La finta giardiniera.
La finta giardiniera is one of the least known of Mozart’s operas. Introduce us to the plot…
To understand the plot, you need to know the backstory. Count Belfiore stabs Sandrina out of jealousy and runs away. She comes back to life and spends the whole opera searching for him. He is due to marry somebody else before she finds him. But it’s a classic love story – they come together again at the end.
Why do you think Sandrina continues to search for the Count after he attempts to kill her?
You know, I really can’t tell! For me it is very difficult to understand, but there has to be something… I think it’s about her strong belief in real love.
You mentioned Count Belfiore’s jealousy before: is jealousy an important theme in the opera?
Yes. It’s not that Sandrina has many lovers or that she looks after many men. The Count looked after many women and so thinks she must have been acting in the same way. Jealousy is often found in the one who did the wrong thing: if you behave properly you expect others to do the same. It’s a tricky thing. Even people are killed – women are killed – because of the jealousy of their husbands or brothers.
What opportunities does performing in a relatively obscure opera present?
There is not a set idea in people’s head of how it should be as there is with something like Don Giovanni. Also, nobody knows about this character so I can really make her my own. It’ll be a really interesting evening because there is a lot going on: the opera is very tragic and it’s weird at times, but that makes it more exciting. People will have their own ideas about it and I think after seeing our production they will have a lot to discuss. I like these operas where you can have a new experience and really enjoy the discovery.
You’re returning to Glyndebourne for a third time…
Yes, this place is really special for me. Each time, I pack my belongings and fill the car and actually move, for three and a half months, to a new place. It’s amazing! I have many friends here now and every year different singers are there, and different directors and conductors. Last year I thought that I would spend my time in horrible weather with rain the whole time, but it was actually a beautiful summer. I got to spend my free time outdoors at the beach and going for long walks.
What do you think makes Glyndebourne unique?
It’s not just about going to the opera house but about the whole experience. People come here from London or fly in from somewhere and spend the whole day. It’s not like you can visit quickly after work. It may be that you arrive at midday and bring a picnic before seeing an opera. The whole time is spent on opera and dedicated to art and beauty. Because it’s not in a big city you have the space and freedom to enjoy everything.
This year you’re working with conductor Robin Ticciati for the first time…
Yes. I had heard a lot and been to several performances of his and always thought ‘wow, he’s very young; this is a big thing’, but he has so much to say. It is really amazing how he connects with singers and portrays everything in a way that allows us to really understand what he means. He has a lot of energy and comes across as more experienced than he looks.
What do you like about director Frederic Wake-Walker's approach to La finta?
Frederic had really concrete ideas from the beginning. It’s one of his first big productions and feels really special because we have this great young team. There are only seven singers – there’s no chorus – so we can all say something and move the production in the direction we want. It's a really amazing collaboration between all of us.
Christiane Karg stars in La finta giardiniera at Glyndebourne Festival from 28 June – 21 August. Visit: Glyndebourne.com
Photo: Gisela Schenker