Even at age 12, Mozart could compose pleas for forgiveness that would make angels weep. Not that these are the only beautiful or arresting passages in his rarely heard opera "La Finta Semplice," written at that tender age and sung in English as "Marriage by Stealth" on Saturday at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre by David Anglin's Los Angeles Music Theatre Company.
The pleas occur when Giacinta and Ninetta implore the obdurate Cassandro to let them marry the men they love. Do not worry too much about the story, which concerns love delayed but finally rewarded.
Anglin provided a witty translation and Lin White directed gracefully, but the silly machinations of Coltellini's libretto (based on Goldoni's buffo plot) ultimately grew tedious anyway. Mozart's music provided the only redemption there was, and it was considerable.
Vocal and dramatic values were almost universally high. Alayne Faraone and Deborah Mayhan sang brightly and persuasively as Giacinta and her servant Ninetta, respectively. Laurinda Nikkel showed agility in the coloratura demands of Rosina, the linchpin heroine of the Italian title (The Feigned Simpleton).
Ronald M. Banks sang the power-broker brother Cassandro with cool, gritty tone. Steven Dunham revealed a thin, flexible tenor as Fracasso, Giacinta's wooer. Eli Vilanueva made a strong Simone, Ninetta's suitor. Of them all, Daniel Plaster, as the amorous but weak-willed brother Polidoro, seemed the most dramatically invested and sang appealingly.
Anglin conducted with verve and style, and appeared unfazed when he had to restart Rosina's ravishing night song in E major because Nikkel had missed her entrance.
Susan Stewart designed attractive period costumes. Ed Brown's sets made a virtue of simplicity. Eileen Cooley lit the proceedings affectionately.
* \o7 "Marriage by Stealth" will repeat at 8 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday. $20 and $25. (213) 466-1767.\f7