Mozart meets 21st Century

“La Finta Gardiniera” opened on Thursday night and will run through Saturday. Tickets are $15 and are available at http://www.baylor.edu/theatre/. Perfomances are at Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center. Photo credit: Penelope Shirey

Today marks what would be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 261st birthday, and what better way to celebrate than by seeing Baylor Opera Theater’s production of “La Finta Giardiniera?”

Professor Octavio Cárdenas, director of the Baylor Opera Theater, said he thinks “La Finta Gardiniera” would be an ideal first experience for someone who has never seen an opera before.

“I like making opera accessible to audiences,” Cárdenas said. “To me, opera should be contemporary, so once in a while I like to tweak it a little bit.”

Emojis, leafblowers and references to the dating app Tinder are just a few of the modern surprises Cárdenas added to update the opera.

The Woodlands senior Andrea Horton said she thinks the modern additions make “La Finta Giardiniera” a show everyone can enjoy. She said she was happy to hear laughter in the audience opening night after spending so much time working on her comedic timing.

“La Finta Giardiniera,” which means “the feigned gardener” in Italian, refers to Violante, a character who disguises herself as a gardener to spy on a former lover, Count Belfiore. Horton’s character, Arminda, is the count’s new fiancee who discovers his shady past.

“You want to see what’s going to happen next,” Horton said. “There’s a lot of strange plot twists, and you just want to figure out how it’s going to end up.”

Horton and the other performers sing entirely in Italian, but English-speaking audiences can rely on the subtitles projected on screens above the stage to understand.

Dr. Jeffery Peterson, the musical director of the show, has been teaching the performers their music since October. He said that even though Mozart was only 18 years old when he began writing the opera, the music is still advanced and challenging for the vocalists.

“Mozart is always a challenge,” Peterson said. “Mozart calls on us to be the best performers and musicians that we can be.”

Peterson said the central conflicts of the story revolve around attempted murder, characters falling in love with the wrong people and cases of mistaken identity.

“La Finta Giardiniera” is not just about the characters discovering each other’s identities. According to Cárdenas, Mozart discovered some of his own identity as a composer in the process of writing the opera.

“It’s like Mozart learning to be Mozart,” Cárdenas said. “Towards the finale, you start hearing that something is coming, something that made him a genius in the operatic world.”

The show opened Wednesday, and performances will continue until Saturday. Tickets are $15 for the general public and $10 for Baylor students, staff and faculty. You can purchase them at http://www.baylor.edu/theatre/.

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