London-based Royal College of Music (RCM) is set to take audiences to the moon and back with a new production of Haydn’s opera buffa – a genre of Italian comic opera – Il mondo della luna (The World on the Moon, 1777), the world-leading conservatoire has announced.
With a libretto by Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni, this sci-fi sitcom combines a comic plot with some of Haydn’s finest writing: a grand romantic aria, evocative flight song and elegant lunar ballet. The story centres on aspiring space cadet Buonafede, his daughters Clarice and Flaminia, and his bogus astronomer, Ecclitico.
Buonafede wants nothing more than to travel to the moon; everyone else simply longs for love. Ecclitico is pursuing Clarice, nobleman Ernesto loves Flaminia and his servant Cecco desires the sisters’ chambermaid. The lovers conspire to trick Buonafede into releasing his tyrannical grip on his daughters.
They show Buonafede a pantomime of moon life through Ecclitico’s telescope, which he takes to be real and eagerly swallows an elixir to transport him there. The potion sends him on a hallucinatory journey and when he awakens in a starlit garden, he revels in what he considers to be an otherworldly paradise. In the court of the Emperor of the Moon, where class structure is satirised and anything seems possible, will Buonafede consent to a triple wedding, or will the lovers be brought down to earth with a bump?
Goldoni’s libretto had previously been set by six other composers, first by Italian composer Baldassare Galuppi and performed at the 1750 Venice carnival. It was then adapted for Haydn’s version, which was performed during the wedding celebrations of Count Nikolaus Esterházy, the younger son of Haydn’s patron Prince Nikolaus Esterházy and the Countess Maria Anna.
This new production is directed by William Relton. The much sought-after teacher and director started off as an actor in London’s West End and has worked as a director for more than 25 years. Wielding the baton is British conductor Michael Rosewell, who began his career at the Vienna State Opera and most recently worked as music director of English Touring Opera before stepping down last year.
As is traditional for RCM’s Opera Studio, two casts will alternate performances, giving as many accomplished young singers as possible the chance to take to the stage. Performances take place on 25 and 27 November at the RCM’s Britten Theatre in South Kensington, London.
The Royal College of Music Opera Studio presents a new production of Haydn’s Il mondo della luna.