Review: Haymarket Opera Company’s “L’isola disabitata” by Joseph Haydn, at the Athenaeum Theatre Sept. 17-18
By Marta Tonegutti
A sense of joyous buoyancy is the hallmark of productions at the Haymarket Opera Company, now embarking on its sixth season, and that spirit draws an increasingly enraptured audience. Lovingly honed historical details – use of period instruments, keen attention to stage gestures and movements – go hand in hand with imaginative concepts for richly colorful sets and costumes inspired by, but not tied to, historical sources.
All of which applies to Haymarket’s production of Haydn’s opera “L’isola disabitata” (The Desert Island), with a libretto by Metastasio, first performed in 1779 at the court theater of the Hungarian Prince Esterhazy. Thus Haymarket departs from its customary Baroque repertoire and breaks into the early Classical period, requiring a slightly larger orchestra including Classical flute, oboes, bassoon, natural horn, and fortepiano, together with strings.
From the distinctive overture forward, Haydn shows himself a master of orchestral colors and textures. The skillful writing and subtle handling of instruments and voices were well conveyed by artistic director Craig Trompeter and the Haymarket players. It was particularly admirable how the orchestra maintained a light touch in their many accompanied recitatives, which constitute a large portion of the score, in contrast to the sparser – or secco – recitatives for continuo instruments that were more customary for many operas of this period, including Mozart’s. Haydn’s use of full orchestral writing throughout, instead of the alternation between continuo and orchestra, makes for a more “modern” overall effect, but a less attentive conductor could have added too much weight to the instrumental parts, to the detriment of the voices. Read the full story »