S&H Festivalreview

MONTREUX FESTIVAL 2001: Mozart, La Finta Giardiniera, Montreux Auditorium, September 1, 2001 (FC)


The second offering of the Montreux Voice and Music Festival, a concert version of Mozart's La Finta Giardiniera, written at the request of the Bavarian court when the composer was 19 years old, just misses the greatness of his more "mature" operas. What is always impressive is the easy hand he has with melodic lines and dramatic interest and this makes hearing even his lesser-known works a worthy evening. The librettist on this occasion, Giuseppe Petrosellini, is certainly no Lorenzo Da Ponte and this opera buffa, which begins with a murder, is a strange mix of comedy and elements of opera seria.

Rebecca Evans picture courtesy of the Montreux Voice and Music Festival.

There is a fine triumvirate of English singers who are at the centre of this production. Tenor John Mark Ainsley, a Mozart specialist, is in the central role of Don Anchise, whose job is to explain it all for you. Soprano Rebecca Evans is the murdered lover who finally did not die after all and soprano Lynne Dawson plays the new love interest of the presumed murderer, Count Belfiore. Ainsley, although not the most ringing of tenors, plays with character and dramatic appeal. Rebecca Evans, recently seen at the Paris Théàtre du Châtelet in John Elliot Gardiner's Falstaff, sings with all the requisite grace and intelligence that places her at the forefront of Mozartian interpreters. The formidable voice of Lynne Dawson, as the impetuous Arminda, added plenty of salt, pepper and a bit of Tabasco into the comic stew.

The Freiburger Barockorchester was the orchestra this night with the young German conductor, Gottfried von der Goltz, providing skilled direction to the assembled forces. Also contributing to the success of this evening was the South African tenor Kobie van Rensburg as the innocent-of-murder Belfore and mezzo Monica Groop in the trouser role of Ramiro. Signing on to this project at the last minute, the splendid Swiss baritone Gilles Cachemaille sang a robust and richly nuanced Nardo. The rumor around the lobby at intermission was that these forces are planning to record this opera in the future. If so, it would immediately be a contender for first choice of those available.

As a side note to this festival, in the main auditorium, the Auditorium Stravinski, I have found the acoustics in the balcony, where the ticket prices are less expensive, to be superior to that in the orchestra section, where there are often imbalances. In addition, there is a range of concerts in smaller venues that can be of great interest. For example, on the stormy night of Tuesday, 4 September, there was an exciting discovery for this writer. At the imposing Château de Chillon the young Swedish soprano, Camilla Tilling, sang a series of songs by Purcell and Handel with a Baroque ensemble. She created a critical stir in Aix-en-Provence this summer singing Susanna in their acclaimed production of Le Nozze di Figaro. With such a combination of talent, brains and beauty, she should have a considerable career ahead of her.

Frank Cadenhead

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