“La Finta Giardiniara (The Secret Gardener)” may not ring bells for any but those with a deep knowledge of Mozart operas, but that’s because the composer, 18 years old at the time, eclipsed it with a flood of symphonies, operas and piano works.
The 1775 opera, whose Baylor Opera Theater production opens Wednesday, sounds much like Handel and Haydn, two composers who influenced Mozart, but with accents recognizable to fans of such operas as “Cosi fan Tutte,” “Don Giovanni” and “The Marriage of Figaro,” opera theater director Octavio Cardenas said.
The opera, Mozart’s eighth, has the Marchionesse Violante (Rachel Goldberg, Myrna Peralez) and her servant, Roberto (Andy Eaton, Scott Clark ), masquerading as gardeners for Violante’s former flame, Count Belfiore (Edgar Sierra, Zachary Barba), who is engaged to Arminda (Andrea Horton, Ashton Griffin) after stabbing Violante in an argument. He still loves her, though, and when Arminda finds out, she plans to kidnap this Violante wherever she may be.
Violante eventually is discovered and, after a brief interlude where she and Belfiore imagine they’re Greek gods, all but the town’s mayor, Don Anchise (Kameron Alston), are reconciled, including Arminda to former suitor Ramiro (Blayke Drury, Julia Powers) and Roberto to fellow servant Serpetta (Teddi Pinson, Lindsay Webber).
“In the end, everyone ends up with who they’re supposed to and they all live happily ever after,” said Cardenas, who is the production’s stage director with Jeffrey Peterson as music director. “It’s a very young composer trying to put on an opera. . . . There are lots of flashes of genius. He’s not quite there, but getting there really fast.”
The three-act Baylor production will be sung in Italian with English subtitles.