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Haydn Operas Complete

La fedeltà premiata
Orlando Paladino
La vera constanza
L'incontro improvviso
Ifigenia in Tauride (Traetta)
Acide e Galatea - Festa Teatrale (opera fragment, Hob.XXVIII:1)
I finti eredi (Sarti)
La Circe, ossia L'isola incantata
L'infedeltà delusa
Il mondo della luna
L'isola disabitata
and further arias

Decca - 4781776 (20 CDs)

Decca's largest contribution to the Haydn tri-centenary is a cornucopia; a further reissue of Antal Dorati's LP recordings made in Switzerland in the '70s. Fine they were, but on CD they have been progressively emasculated, first issued in two boxes (see comment below, 1998), this time repackaged in a single neat box with the twenty CDs in paper slip cases (no complaints about that; better than space-taking jewel cases which tend to get broken).

But inside, the 96-page booklet offers only synopses in English, French & German, but no texts in any language nor even an introductory essay about Haydn's operas in the new millennium...

Cast and track items are separated from the synopses, so that a couple of paper clips need to be called to do service to get them together. More extraordinary than that, searching 'opera' and 'libretto' sites on the web fails to find any Haydn libretti, although the originals must surely be long out of copyright... Why has no-one tackled this during the important year?

RAM had a new translation on surtitles for their modernised La Fedelta Premiata, but were unable to copy it to me "for copyright reasons" ! All I've found is this one on sale... :

FRANZ JOSEPH HAYDN BBC Opera Libretto - Philemon and Baucis
London, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 1927, First Edition. Soft Cover, A very good stapled booklet. Very Good/No Jacket.

In the circumstances, I feel unable to seriously review this collection, though it's nice to have all the often under-rated opera music. We enjoyed sampling the two discs of L'Isola Disabitita, an Azione teatrale about desert island tribulations, with the first aria uncannily close to Gluck's Che faro. A happy ending with a positively symphonic finale, featuring four solo concertante instruments and the two pairs of lovers in a final chorus. Delightful.

Dorati and his Lausanne orchestra provide secure support in these EBU/Radio Suisse broadcast recordings, a supplement to Antal Dorati's pioneering first recordings of all the symphonies.

It brought back memories of listening to some of those opera recordings with enforced patience whilst confined to hopital with a broken leg. My remarks then are even more pertinent now:

Who takes the commercial decisions about how much and which supporting literature to print for re-issues? Has market research established that the concerns regularly reiterated by critics do not affect purchasing? How will people actually listen to the cornucopia of marvellous music locked away in these ten operas? Will they play through all the twenty CDs with the superficial understanding which Philips enforces, possibly as background music? Without more thoughtful presentation, this reissue will probably not save most of them from falling back to languish in obscurity again.

For an example of how it can be done better, and even more cheaply, see Nimbus' reissue of all the Haydn Symphonies. They make introductory essays available on their website, which surely is the least that could be expected of Decca?

I'll see if another (Italian speaking) reviewer would like to tackle them.



1. The recordings have been in the catalogue for a long time and the performances are exemplary. If you just want another 20 odd hours of enjoyable music to put on your IPod then the pack is absolutely fine. But if you want to be able to follow the action, even a fluent Italian speaker would have difficulty.
A libretto and translation are really essential.
Hopefully developments in technology will soon find a solution, and we shall be able to have “surtitles” displayed on a hand held player... [SF]

2. Haydn: Operas, Vol.1:19. Sep 2008 - No translation of the text is included so I'm glad I only bought Vol 1. I won't be buying Vol 2 [CCR]