The Queensland Conservatorium is putting a fresh spin on Mozart’s comic opera La Finta Giardiniera (The Fake Gardener), with a bold new retelling set in the contemporary world of reality TV.

In a classic comedy of errors, several couples seek love, fame and revenge. It’s ‘lights, camera, action’ as contestants are married at first sight, misunderstandings ensue and people go to any lengths to get what they want.

La Finta Giardinierawas one of Mozart’s first operas, written when he was just 18 years old. More than 200 years on, a group of young opera students will breathe fresh life into the production, which features a new libretto by award-winning playwright Emme Hoy.

‘It looks and sounds fantastic’

Professor Gemma Carey

Acting Director of the Queensland Conservatorium Professor Gemma Carey said the radical re-imagining would enthrall audiences.

“It looks and sounds fantastic — this production demonstrates the calibre of teaching and learning happening at the Queensland Conservatorium,” she said.

Audiences are in for a treat, with a cast featuring Australia’s rising stars of opera and talented musicians from the Queensland Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra in the pit.

Rising stars

For sopranos Xenia Puskarz-Thomas and Cassandra Wright, this production will be their swansong at the Queensland Conservatorium – both are heading overseas to pursue further studies.

Soprano Cassandra Wright

Cassandra is on a red-eye flight to London after the final performance to take up postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She said her leading role in La Finta Giardiniera was the perfect way to cap off her studies at the Queensland Conservatorium.

“It is my last public performance here at the Con, which is both scary and exciting,” she said.

Mezzo-soprano Xenia-Puskarz Thomas

“This show has been a lot of fun – we get to sing these beautiful, lyrical Italian arias and tackle a modern text in English.

“I don’t think audiences should expect a traditional opera – they should come with an open mind and be ready for anything.”

Xenia recently won the Lady Fairfax New York Scholarship and will be studying with the world’s best at Juilliard and the Met Opera next month.

“We are so lucky to put on these big productions with a full orchestra, international directors and beautiful sets and costumes — each role I’ve been given here has helped me grow as an artist,” she said.

“As a younger student, I was in the chorus and would watch the older students and see everything that went into creating a role and leading a show.

“A production like this is a real ensemble piece and everyone has to bring their best.”

Dream team

The show is helmed by the Queensland Conservatorium’s new Professor of Opera Studies, maestro Johannes Fritzsch. The creative team also features Sydney Theatre Company director Imara Savage, designer Elizabeth Gadsby and Tony award-winning lighting designer Nigel Levings.

Ms Savage has directed opera and theatre for companies including the Sydney Theatre Company, Belvoir Theatre, Sydney Chamber Opera, and Griffin Theatre.

The director said she enjoyed working with opera students at the Conservatorium.

“Working with young people is rewarding on so many levels,” she said.

“They are passionate about the art form, willing to take risks and exist in a place of continual discovery.”

La Finta Giardiniera runs from 7-14 September at the Queensland Conservatorium South Bank. Tickets are available through QTix.