LA FINTA SEMPLICE - Classical Opera at the B'ham Town Hall by Christopher Morley

My heart, which once used to rejoice entering the city, now sinks every time it comes into the Dante-esque disaster area which is the centre of Birmingham. How devoted audiences continue to brave their way to Symphony Hall, Town Hall and the Repertory Theatre beats me, but those who made it on Saturday evening had a unique treat.
By no means his first opera, La Finta Semplice was composed when Mozart was all of 12, and probably forced on him when his grasping father Leopold mistook a throwaway remark for a commission (what, no contract?), 
Its plot is typical opera buffa silliness, by Goldoni out of the commedia dell'arte, but we do get one presage of the mature Mozart when he was to work with the brilliant librettist da Ponte: the resourcefulness of serving-maids (think Susanna, think Despina). Here she is Ninetta, sparkily portrayed by the excellent Chiara Skerath in this spirited Classical Opera and the Mozartists.
Indisposition forced me to leave early, but I what I did hear and see was a lively attempt to bring life to a precocious score which more often than not struggles to grab us by the throat.. Ian Page conducted a sparkling orchestra, but his stage-directions did involve a lot of tedious upping-and-downing and hand-flopping.
Among the excellent septet of soloists, Regula Muhlemann was an effective and engaging Rosina (the eponymous fake simpleton), and Alessandro Fisher was equally affecting as Don Polidoro, a genuine, inbred simpleton.
Plaudits too for the programme-notes, bringing both learning and enthusiasm. We don't always see a combination of both.
Christopher Morley

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