* Notes *
Last night Mozart's La finta giardiniera had the first of two performances by the Merola Opera Program (Rose Sawvel, Casey Candebat, and Jennifer Cherest pictured left in Act I, photograph by Kristen Loken) in San Francisco this summer. The production, directed by Nicholas Muni, employs much violence and many weapons, but does not do much to elucidate the convoluted plot. The set does make the most of the space in a novel way, cleverly using two-sided canvases, and the lighting is effective. The costumes have a pleasing Steampunk feel.
The cast is quite fine. Gordon Bintner sang Nardo with warmth. Rose Sawvel sounded bird-like as Serpetta, and projected both jealousy and flirtatiousness with ease. Sarah Mesko looked convincingly male as Ramiro, but her timbre is feminine and slightly hysterical. Theo Lebow could have a bit more control of his high notes, however he seemed suited to the role of Belfiore.
Jacqueline Piccolino made for a haughty Arminda, singing and acting confidently. Jennifer Cherest sounded pretty and clear as the much-maligned title character. Her Sandrina is sympathetic and sweet. Casey Candebat has a beautiful, rich voice, and his Podestà is perfectly silly. His Act I aria, "Dentro il mio petto," was especially charming.
* Tattling *
There was talking from the audience, even from those barely arm's length from Maestro Gary Thor Wedow and the orchestra.