UMKC Opera brings early Mozart romp to the stage

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Feigned identities, illicit intrigues and spurned lovers frolic and mourn within a hothouse of love and insanity in this latest production from the UMKC Conservatory Opera, led by guest artistic director Rachel M. Harris.

By the time Mozart had first premiered La finta giardiniera, two short weeks before his 19th birthday, he had already written seven operas. He was employed by the Archbishop of Salzburg to write church music and rehearse the choir, but in order to make money, Mozart knew he had to turn to the most popular style of the day, Italian opera.

La finta giardiniera, ‘the pretend garden-girl’, is a story about the Countess Onesti, Violante, who has been stabbed by her lover in a fit of jealous rage before the operas opening. Although she was left for dead, she recovers, changes her name to Sandrina, and goes into hiding at the house of a local Mayor (The Podesta). Of course, as all love triangles go, the Mayor immediately falls in love with her, which in turn upsets his servant Serpetta, who is in love with the Mayor herself! Not to be outdone, Serpetta is loved by Sandrina’s servant, Nardo (who by the way is also pretending to be a gardner…) and from here the plot only becomes more complicated! More characters arrive, everyone is confused of who is in disguise, who is really who they say they are, and, even more so, our heroine Sandrina starts to question whether she is alive or dead.

UMKC alumnus Jeff Ridenour returns as scenic designer for this exciting production. Now based in New York City, Ridenour now designs for opera and theatre productions across the United States. He has a diverse background in liberal arts, and his music and theatre training enhances his designs, reflecting the tone of a work’s music and text through visual design combined with energy, boldness, and range of style. Jeff received his Master of Fine Arts from UMKC, where he studies with designer John Ezell and scenic artist Alice Bracken-Carroll. Most recently, he designed the Off-Broadway premiere of Party Face by Isobel Mahon at City Center.

Also joining the Conservatory as guest artistic director is Rachel M. Harris, a national and international freelance opera director based in Baton Rouge, LA. She began her directing career in 1997 working with the Boston University Tanglewood Institute. Dr. Harris holds a DMA from Louisiana State University, a BM in Vocal Performance from Fredonia State University and a MM in Opera from Binghamton University in conjunction with the Tri-Cities Opera Artist Residence Training Program. In addition to her work as an Instructor of Introduction to Stage Techniques for Louisiana State University, Dr. Harris is the Guest Artist Stage Director for Southeastern Louisiana State University and a past Guest Artist Director for the University of Utah, Logan. Her free-lance credits include: The Varna International Opera Academy, Stara Zagora, Bulgaria; Opera Louisiane, Baton Rouge, LA; Druid City Opera Workshop, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa and the Raven Summer Opera, Sam Houston State, Huntsville, TX. Among her credits are: Mozart’s, The Marriage of Figaro and Cosi Fan Tutte; Copland’s, The Tender Land; Offenbach’s, La Perichole, Weill’s, Street Scene; Puccini’s, Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi, and La Rondine; and Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado, H.M.S. Pinafore, Pirates of Penzance, and Ruddigore.

The UMKC Fall Opera runs November 15–18, with performances at 7:30 p.m. November 15, 16, and 17, and a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Sunday, November 18. Tickets: $12 general public; UMKC faculty, staff, and all students FREE with UMKC or student ID. For tickets visit the CTO website at, or call 816-235-6222.


About UMKCConservatory 8 Articles
The UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance is internationally recognized as a center for artistic excellence, innovation, and engagement with our communities, with more than 300 concerts, recitals, shows, and events throughout the year. In rehearsals, in class, and on stage, our students interact with an exceptionally gifted faculty and with leading visiting artists in ways that are supportive, yet rigorous. Our faculty and students recognize that arts careers in the twenty-first century will blend new works with master pieces; unite performance, engagement, and education; and above all will pulse with a sense of adventure and creativity. A community of artists, educators, and scholars, the UMKC Conservatory enrolls more than 600 students in a comprehensive array of liberal arts and professional degree programs in Composition, Music Theory, and Musicology; Dance; Instrumental Studies; Jazz Studies; Keyboard Studies; Music Education/Music Therapy; and Vocal Studies.