Breaking opera taboo: Mozart, in English?

PUBLISHED: 18:06 08 September 2010 | UPDATED: 18:23 08 September 2010

Cassandro (Derek S.Henderson), Polidoro (Edward Lee) and Ninetta (Rebeccca Dale) in La Finta Semplice

Cassandro (Derek S.Henderson), Polidoro (Edward Lee) and Ninetta (Rebeccca Dale) in La Finta Semplice


A chamber theatre company is taking a fresh look at some of the great composer’s earliest music

At the age of 12, when most boys might be praised for picking up a book without some degree of haranguing, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was writing one of his first operas, writes Jules Cooper.

But Le Finta Semplice, which is due to be performed at Greenwich Playhouse by Opera@Home, will show that there was no childishness missing from Mozart’s life.

The performance, meaning ‘the pretended simpleton’ will tell the farcical love story with boyish assurance, reveals director Jose Gandia.

“There is a central drama that is quite serious, but it is surrounded by farce, it is full of hilarious characters.

“Opera is actually a lot of fun which many people don’t realise as going to the opera is so formal.”

The performance will see a pianist and seven singers squeezed into the tiny loft venue. Previously it has only been shown in private at The Space on the Isle of Dogs, a converted church.

“It is a very intimate space,” said Gandia. “The audience will be able to feel the singers breathing on them and sometimes they will interact with the audience. That is unheard of in opera and it is something we are determined to change.”

The company’s hope to break with operatic tradition is two-fold, as the production will be told half in English. Whilst the crucial songs will remain Italian, the narrative between will be in English.

Gandia said: “People will understand the developments of the play as they would the theatre, but we will keep each aria intact, which is beautiful.

“The arias wouldn’t work in the same way in English.”

Opera@Home, which aims to give young singers an opportunity to perform, will also perform La Finta Giardiniera, meaning ‘the pretend garden girl’ – an opera Mozart wrote when he was a mature 18-year-old living in Munich.

Gandia said: “This touches on much deeper emotions and it is clear that, unlike Semplice, it is all Mozart’s work.

“It will be a more surreal experience that might be harder to understand, but the music is absolutely beautiful.”

Le Finta Semplice will be performed at various dates between September 21 and October 9.

La Finta Giardiniera will be performed a dates between September 22 and October 10.

● For tickets priced £12–£15, or £20 to see both productions, call the Greenwich Playhouse box office on 020 858 9256 or visit

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