Jean Cocteau, Orpheus und seine Leier, Foto: Archives Charmet / Bridgeman Images, © Bildrecht / Comité Cocteau, Wien 2022
About the Production


In 1790, after almost thirty years at the Eszterháza court, Joseph Haydn suddenly found himself without an employer. When this came to the ears of impresario Johann Peter Salomon, he promptly engaged Haydn to come to London. There, in addition to twelve symphonies, Haydn would write an opera seria for the Haymarket Theatre. Although regarded as an instrumental composer, Haydn was an experienced opera Kapellmeister who had distinguished himself at the princely court with adapted performances of other works as well as seventeen operas of his own. Haydn was supplied with a libretto on the preferred subject matter of Orpheus written by Carlo Francesco Badini. Although countless works on this theme had been composed since 1600, Gluck’s reform opera Orfeo ed Euridice was regarded as the absolute measure: reduced to its mythological core, it focusses on the power of love. Thus composer and librettist were forced to explore new paths. Badini’s libretto featured a complex plot with a dramatic conclusion. Haydn wrote extended numbers for the chorus but also included intermezzi and dance interludes as well as richly ornamented coloraturas in traditional da capo arias and scored the work for the largest orchestral forces to be found in his oeuvre. The premiere was cancelled when King George III refused permission for it to be staged. L’anima del filosofo was to remain unperformed until its premiere in Florence in 1951.

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