Paisiello: Il mondo della luna

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COMPOSERS: Paisiello
LABELS: Bongiovanni
WORKS: Il mondo della luna
PERFORMER: Enzo Dara, Daniele Gaspari, Gemma Bertagnolli, Carla di Censo; Orchestra of the Monteverdi Conservatory, Bolzano, Choir of the Association
CATALOGUE NO: GB 2173/74-2
II mondo della luna, an opera libretto by the celebrated Carlo Goldoni, was a popular subject from the time Baldassare Galuppi originally set it for the Venetian carnival in 1750. It continued to attract composers for thirty-odd years, including Haydn and Paisiello.

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Paisiello was one of the 18th century’s most successful operatic composers, his most famous work being // barbiere di Siviglia for St Petersburg (1782). But somehow the 20th century’s sensational revival of Italian settocento instrumental and religious music has excluded opera. Perhaps what contemporary audiences loved is what we dislike, or disdain -the graceful, charming, unreal atmosphere with its feather-light orchestration. Paisiello is undoubtedly charming and there is some beautiful clarinet writing, which you don’t get in Haydn. But what is lacking is that gritty intellectual fibre of Haydn’s setting, which you can hear in the Dorati-Philips series.

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This live performance is very nicely sung, but the orchestra sounds slightly scrappy (the timpani are all but inaudible unless you know the score), and the recording is dry and unflattering. Still, we ought to listen attentively to works like this, because they show us in (un-)dramatic fashion what we have in the operatic masterpieces of the century, particularly by German-Austrians -Gluck, Haydn and Mozart — not to speak of the French school of Lully and Rameau. HC Robbins Landon