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Mozart's La Finta Giardiniera Springs into Oberlin March 11-15

March 4, 2015

Erich Burnett

Juliana Zava, Rebecca Achtenberg, and Elana Bell appear in Oberlin Opera Theater’s La finta giardiniera
Juliana Zava, Rebecca Achtenberg, and Elana Bell (from left) appear in Oberlin Opera Theater’s La finta giardiniera, opening March 11.
Photo credit: Erich Burnett

More than 200 years after his death, the operas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart—The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro, and Don Giovanni among them—remain timeless in their appeal.

This month, Oberlin Opera Theater explores a lesser-known work by the master, composed when he was only 18 years old: La finta giardiniera ("The pretend garden-girl").

Though it was written at a time when Mozart struggled to find audiences for his operas, La finta giardiniera serves up an early glimpse of the qualities audiences grew to love about his later works: his sophisticated use of the orchestra to enhance the on-stage drama, his deep exploration of emotion, his flair for innovation, and his intuitive understanding of what makes humans think and act the way they do.

Or, as Oberlin Opera Theater Director Jonathon Field puts it: "If you think Lorde writes good music at that age, you should hear this."

Set in the garden of a provincial Italian adjudicator, La finta giardiniera reveals the tangled lives and loves of the residents of an Italian town—each of them complete with a hidden past that they desperately hope to shed.

"They soon discover that the best way to reinvent yourself is not by becoming someone else, but by forgiveness and understanding," says Field. "These are themes that Mozart worked on musically for most of his life."

And yes, there are rabbits—rabbit performers, bounding about the stage throughout. "Every garden has rabbits, and ours is no exception!" says Field.

Presented in two acts, La finta giardiniera features a remarkable cast of conservatory vocalists and a score performed by the Oberlin Orchestra, led by Associate Professor of Conducting Raphael Jiménez. It is sung in Italian, with English supertitles.

The curtain rises on La finta giardiniera at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 11, at Hall Auditorium (67 N. Main St.) on the Oberlin College campus. Additional performances take place at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 13 and 14, followed by a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, March 15.

Tickets are just $10—and only $8 for all students. In addition, students 18 years and under may receive a free ticket with the purchase of an accompanying adult ticket. Order by phone at 800-371-0178, visit, or stop by the Hall Auditorium box office from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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