Every so often there is an opera that will appeal to opera devotees and total newcomers to opera with equal delight. One such opera now plays at the Ordway where the Minnesota Opera has staged a dreamy and hilarious production of Diana’s Garden, a late 18th-century work with music by Vicente Martin Y Soler and libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte.
Diana’s Garden draws from ancient Greek myth as Diana, the goddess of the hunt, is happily sequestered in her sylvan garden with her nymphs, all hermetically and harmoniously sealed away from the male of the species. However, everything changes when three fellows drop in. Their very presence triggers Diana’s defensive nature and opens up the nymphs to previously dormant desires. Of course, Diana’s own romantic and erotic nature is challenged and herein lies the comedy and the conflict.
Glamorous Leah Partridge is gloriously volatile in the lead role with a voice that leaps and careens with commandingly lustrous flourish. Adriana Zabala brings androgynous zest to Amore, the son of the goddess Venus, who most of us know as Cupid. Alexandra Razskazoff, Gina Perregrino, and Nadia Fayad sparkle as the nymphs whose curiosity cannot be contained. Zany Craig Colclough and David Walton are terrific as two of the hapless males. Alek Shrader endears as Endimione, the shepherd who makes the most impact on Diana.
Peter Rothstein has directed the piece with mischievous abandon and noteworthy sexual freedom. There’s always a sense of how erotic desire is fought against or surrendered to throughout. Paul Whitaker’s hunting lodge set is beautifully pastoral, complemented by Alice Fredrickson’s 1950s style costumes. Michael Christie conducts a masterful orchestra.
Through Jan. 29
Ordway Center, 345 Washington St., St. Paul