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The Sunday Opera: Franz Josef Haydn's "Il mondo della luna" ("The World on the Moon")

If one were to use the Metropolitan opera as a guide, one might think that Franz Josef Haydn never wrote an opera since the Met’s never mounted one of fifteen “Italian” operas or any of the German Singspiele he completed. We’re helping to bring Haydn’s opera output out into the open on this week’s Sunday Opera (2/18 3:00 p.m.).  

“Il mondo della luna” (“The World on the Moon”) has a libretto by Carlo Goldoni, one of the great comic playwrights of 18th century Italy. As one would imagine, its first performance was at Eszterhaza in Hungary in 1777, and it’s the first of two pieces on today’s program that features a “trickster,” but this one has a very happy ending. 

Our trickster in the opera is an astrologer named Ecclitico (Luigi Alva) who has fallen in love with one of the daughters, Glarice (Edith Mathis). of a curmudgeon named Buonafede (Domenico Trimarchi). Also in love with one of Buonafede’s daughters, Flamina (Arleen Auger) is the knight Ernesto (Lucia Valentini Terrani), and it happens that the knight’s servant, Cecco (Anthony Rolfe Johnson), is in love with the girls’ maid, Lisetta (Frederica von Stade). The problem is that they all need the blessing of Bonafede, and blessings from Buonafede are few and far between. 

The scheme to get around Buonafede begins when Eccilitico convinces him that he would find a better and happier life on the moon, and by drinking a special potion, Bonafede would fall asleep and awaken on the moon which, of course, is peopled by everyone on earth in disguise. 

Added to this, we have a forged will and all sorts of “lunar” fun taking place in Ecclitico’s transformed garden. When all is said and done, Buonafede forgives all and gives his blessings for the marriages to take place. 

Antol Dorati conducts the Chorus of the Suisse Romande and the Lusanne Chamber Orchestra in this 1993 recording. 

Our second trickster comes from the ballet “Scaramouche” by Jean Sibelius. Unfortunately, his pranks have a rather unhappy ending. This recording features Bendik Goldstein (viola) and Roi Ruottinen (cello) who are joined by the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Leif Segerstam.

Michael is program host and host of the WWFM Sunday Opera, Sundays at 3 pm, and co-host of The Dress Circle, Sundays at 7 pm.
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