Getting an Early Start: Mozart's 'La Finta Semplice'

            The opera is in three acts and takes place at an estate near Cremona in the 1700s. Fracasso is a captain in the Hungarian army. He and his sergeant, Simone, have been assigned to the house of two wealthy brothers, Cassandro and Polidoro, and their sister Giacinta. Fracasso has fallen in love with Giacinta. Simone is in love with her maid, Ninetta. But neither couple can be married without the consent of the two brothers, Cassandro and Polidoro.

            As ACT ONE opens, the four lovers are enjoying some stolen time together. But Giacinta is nervous about being caught by her brothers. Ninetta says they need to devise a scheme, to outwit the two guys.  

            As they discuss the problem, we find out why the brothers behave the way they do. It turns out that Cassandro hates all women, ever since he was dumped by his one true love. Polidoro, on the other hand, finds women captivating -- but he's also terrified of them. So Ninetta hatches a plan. Rosina, Fracasso's attractive sister, is scheduled to arrive for a visit. Ninetta proposes that both brothers should be made to fall in love with Rosina.

            When we finally meet Cassandro, true to form, he's railing against women. Fracasso suggests that maybe it's all a big act -- that Cassandro is actually afraid of falling for Rosina.  When Cassandro scoffs at that, Fracasso tells him that in the end, women are irresistible.

            Polidoro then pays his respects to Rosina, and almost immediately he proposes marriage.  Rosina is taken aback, saying she would prefer to be wooed for a while -- seduced with gifts and love letters. But Polidoro has never learned to read or write. So Ninetta offers to write a letter for him.

            When Cassandro turns up to have his own shot at romancing Rosina, he's surprised to hear that Polidoro has already fallen for her.  Cassandro warns his brother to be careful.

            Rosina is smart enough to know that she has to set Cassandro at ease, so she pretends to be a young innocent. That does the trick. Cassandro is smitten, though when she asks for his ring as a keepsake, he refuses.

            Before long, Polidoro heads for Rosina's private room with Ninetta's letter in hand.  Rosina pretends to be outraged by his boldness, and Polidoro drops to his knees to apologize. When Cassandro shows up, he's pleased to find his brother humiliated.

            Rosina then turns her attention to Cassandro.  She says the letter she was given surely must have been Cassandro's work, not Polidoro's.  Cassandro feels flattered.  He quickly takes credit for the letter, and even agrees to let Rosina try on his ring. Just then Simone bursts in with news that Rosina has a visitor. Cassandro won't let that ring out of his sight, so he invites everyone to dine with him.

            As ACT TWO begins, the servants Ninetta and Simone have just served dinner, and are waiting for the others to finish so they can have their own meal. The two have fallen in love, and Ninetta describes her ideal husband: a man who accepts exactly what his wife is willing to offer, with no questions or complaints. Giacinta then rushes in and appeals to Simone for help: Cassandro and Polidoro are having a drunken argument over their beautiful visitor Rosina, and fists are about to fly.

            Meanwhile, Rosina is worried that she might be falling in love -- but we're not sure which man has caught her eye. She runs the lovesick Polidoro through some tests of his romantic mettle, which he promptly fails.

            Cassandro stumbles into the room, drunk. The two brothers seem to think that Rosina has promised to marry them both, with Cassandro making his case by pointing out that Rosina is even wearing his ring.  Polidoro leaves in a huff, after an angry aria. The drunken Cassandro soon falls asleep, and Rosina quickly slips the ring back on his own finger.

            Rosina's brother, the billeted soldier Fracasso, now enters. He's also a bit tipsy. Fracasso wakes Cassandro up and challenges him to a duel over Rosina's honor. Rosina scolds Cassandro for attacking her brother, and Cassandro flees to take out his frustrations on his brother Polidoro.

            Fracasso is determined to have the woman he loves, Giacinta. Rosina is also in a mood for love -- and decides to keep pitting Cassandro and Polidoro against each other for her affections. And now, a new intrigue is taking shape.

            Simone takes Giacinta into hiding, and Fracasso tells the brothers that she's run off with all their money. The plot is so successful that the servant Ninetta, Simone's lover, also decides to "disappear." Simone then announces that she, too, has stolen everything she could find and fled. The brothers cry "Uncle," as it were. They offer Giacinta's and Ninetta's hands in marriage to whoever can find them and bring them back.

            In ACT THREE, Ninetta and Giacinta are quickly located -- and it's no surprise that they've  been "found" by their respective lovers, Simone and Fracasso.

            Meanwhile, back at the manor house, Rosina informs Cassandro that she has finally decided which of the two brothers she will marry. When Polidoro comes on the scene, she tells Cassandro to hide. Rosina tries to let Polidoro down easy. She tells him he's in love with love, not with her. She offers her hand to Cassandro, and the two of them tease the disappointed Polidoro.

            Then Giacinta, Fracasso, Ninetta, and Simone return to the house demanding their reward -- marriage. Cassandro tries to renege on his promise, but Rosina keeps him in his place. Giacinta and Ninetta ask for forgiveness, and Rosina exposes her own "harmless deception."  She admits that she's not quite the innocent she made herself out to be. Still, she assumes Cassandro will love her anyway. Polidoro is thrilled that his brother has been duped; it proves he's not the only fool in the family!  With all the couples together, the story ends happily -- just as Rosina predicted.