Sunhae Im, Anett Fritsch, André Morsch, Krystian Adam; Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin
Pentatone PTC 5186 275 77:34 mins
Haydn’s operas have been entirely overshadowed by Mozart’s, though anyone coming afresh to L’isola disabitata (The Desert Island), written for a quartet of singers to perform at Eszterháza in 1779, may find his dramatic range surprising; the arias are always closely allied to character and situation.
The opera’s backstory is of the apparent abandonment 13 years earlier by Gernando of his wife Costanza, who has only her much younger sister Silvia for company as she mourns him, and herself looks forward to death; in fact, Gernando was kidnapped by pirates and enslaved. In this short two-part piece to a libretto by Metastasio, the two are reconciled, while Silvia eventually pairs off with Gernando’s friend Enrico to make a neat happy ending.
There is a lot of recitative, expertly and expressively delivered by Anett Fritsch as Costanza, who remains hostile to men and particularly bitter towards Gernando until matters are finally cleared up. Hers is a small, neat voice, and indeed all the principals have been well selected for their assignments. Her naïve sister Silvia (she has apparently never seen a man) is presented in sweet and charming vocalism by Sunhae Im. Krystian Adam’s Gernando is notable for his fine use of text, while André Morsch’s light baritone again fits the bill nicely as Enrico.
Under Bernhard Forck, the orchestral performance impresses right from the start of the overture which, following a sombre slow introduction, moves on to a fierce stormy allegro with a delightful pastoral middle section. Here and throughout, the recorded sound is clear.