Joseph Haydn. Il mondo della luna. DVD. Concentus Musicus Wien / Nikolaus Harnoncourt. With Dietrich Henschel, Bernard Richter, Vivica Genaux, Christina Landshamer, Anja Nina Bahrmann. [Germany]: Unitel Classica, 2010. 703508. $39.99.
Despite having composed many of his own operas, and having directed over 1000 opera performances during his long career as Kapellmeister at Esterháza, Franz Joseph Haydn is not chiefly remembered as an opera composer, or even particularly wellregarded in the history of dramatic music. The critical reception of his operas-only rediscovered and revived in the latter half of the 20th century-has been decidedly mixed, due to the often poor quality of the libretti and to the fact that Haydn's dramatic gifts did not readily or consistently translate to the operatic stage. However, Haydn's 1777 Il mondo della luna [The World of the Moon], with a libretto by Carlo Goldoni, has proven to be something of a standout in the composer's otherwise under-appreciated operatic oeuvre: with its absurdly funny, sci-fithemed libretto, and Haydn's elegant, energetic music, this work has earned itself a small niche in the repertory in recent years.
Il mondo della luna comprises a buffa farce in which the old fool and amateur astronomer Buonafede, who opposes the marriages of his daughters and his maid to their respective boyfriends, is tricked by one of the boyfriends, Ecclitico, into thinking that there is life on the moon. After drinking a "magic" potion, Buonafede passes out, and then wakes up believing he has been transported to the moon (in reality, Ecclitico's garden). Buonafede is welcomed by the moon emperor and his retinue (the boyfriends). His daughters and his maid are subsequently "transported" to the moon, where they contrive to marry the disguised boyfriends in a lunar ceremony. Buonafede finally uncovers the hoax, but it is too late. He resigns himself to the outcome, pays the dowries and forgives everyone. Though in some ways an unremarkable dramma giocoso, with its stock characters, cross-dressing, predictable lieto fine and blending of the comedic and the serious, Il mondo della luna is ultimately redeemed by its original and imaginative fantasy, and by Haydn's vivacious score.
This DVD features Nikolaus Harnon - court conducting Concentus Musicus Wien in a performance filmed at the Theater an der Wien in 2009, the Haydn bicentennial year. At 167 minutes spread over two discs, presumably nothing has been leftout of the original opera (some modern performances have employed substantial cuts, to clean up and streamline the drama). …