Honesty goes into hiding in “La Finta Giardiniera,” an early Mozart comic Italian opera that is nicknamed “Love in Disguise” for Anderson University audiences.
But when the truth is told, this production directed by Laurel Goetzinger with musical conductor Fritz Robertson is a breezy evening of subtle humor, creative simplicity and a touch of madness.
The opera, a mix of comic mismatches and haunting turmoil, is a wise fit to showcase the individual talents of AU students.
As a composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was just 18 when handed the chance to write music for a libretto that had been performed previously. His more important “Magic Flute” or “Don Giovanni” operas were years away. By the mid-1770s, he still had not matured into choruses or memorable melodies.
So the focus is on individual actors who need passion, stamina and diction to carry their roles, qualities found in most of the expert performances at
the Boze Lyric Theatre. There are times when an additional emotion could be drawn to the performers’ faces, but there is also a lot of character feelings that need to remain pent up here.
The first clue into the lovers’ romps are in the title, “The Pretend Garden Girl,” with the back story taking place, unseen on stage, years before the opera begins.
An Italian count, Belfiore, thinks he stabbed former lover Violante to death in a spat.
Now, Belfiore is marrying another woman, Arminda, at a chateau. Nearby stands Violante, disguised as a gardener’s girl hoping to respark the count’s romance. Of course, the truths must eventually come out.
Director Goetzinger has smartly chosen to set the action in the mid-1920s with performers in “Great Gatsby” dress, helping the audience better identify with the mistaken identities and unrequited love (which sounds like a Jazz Age theme) among three couples.
The stage is simply lit. Red denotes the awakening of public passions of the first act; an eerie green adds to the second act’s frenzy in a forest where couples maddeningly — and somewhat strangely — search for one another.
Roles are being shared throughout the weekend. However, during a recent rehearsal, Debbie Fights’ vocal range helps detail the varied moods, including recurrent lies, of Sandrina. Theodore Hicks, with a quality tenor, holds back his visuals as Count Belfiore but breaks into a long-awaited grin when he finds love. Both shine in the shared emotional intensity, and confusion, that opens the second act.
Jeremy Mang has visual fun with admitting his own unbearable yearnings as the town mayor.
Katherine Beach — listen to her sarcasm rise and fall — is a hoot as Serpetta whose bitterness over love turns into cheer.
Pay attention to the words, right up to the end when there’s a quick resolution, and there’s joyful reward in this truly professional production.
If you go ...
• What: “La Finta Giardiniera” comic opera by Mozart. Sung in English with subtitles provided.When: 7:30 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday
• Where: Boze Lyric Theatre at Anderson University
• Tickets: $12 for adults; senior and military, $10; students, $5. The Byrum box office is 641-4351.
—Scott L. Miley is a reporter for the Herald Bulletin. Story republished with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,800 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.