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Haydn: Philemon and Baucis

A marionette opera in one act with prologue.
Libretto after Philipp Georg Bader and Gottlieb Konrad Pfeffel; text version by Hermann Beil

Christoph Genz (tenor), Maren Engelhardt (mezzo-soprano), Jan Petryka (tenor) & Alexandra Reinprecht (soprano)

Vocalforum Graz & Haydn Sinfonietta Wien/Manfred Huss


The music of Joseph Haydn's three-section German puppet opera Philemon and Baucis is fragmentary. The middle part however, in which the true action takes place, has survived in almost complete form. This is the most recent of versions available; I have not heard any others.

It is, on any reckoning, a modest creation, a moral fairy tale about Gods being hosted by good, poor peopleand rewarded magically. It is the sole (incomplete) survivor of several 'marionette operas'.

It is included in a series of rare Haydn works recorded by BIS in connection with the 2009 Haydn bicentenary. The reason we bring it to attention is the superb presentation. The performances and recording are all that one expects fro BIS. The dialogue is given in a conversational, not too dramatic, manner which is apt for its artificiality characteristic of the genre.

Importantly, there is full musicological and historical background in substantial essays by Hermann Beil and conductor Manfred Huss and, almost uniquely for Haydn opera CDs, the complete libretto in German and English - something which we have long been pleading with Unversal to rectify for their otherwise excellent Dorati reissues, discussed at our review of Haydn Operas Complete. See also a detailed synopsis at http://www.habsburg.co.uk/haydncds/synopsis.html.

There really should be no problem about supplying essential background information, including libretti with translations on line, for 18th Century vocal music and opera; the texts long out of copyright...

Peter Grahame Woolf