Poor Papa Haydn does get a bad press for his operas. Much like Beethoven, it seems that you’re allowed to be a master at symphonies, sonatas and quartets but God help you if you then decide that you’ll turn your hand to that most august of mediums, opera. The pedestrian platitudes that get passed about Haydn usually revolve around him not being Mozart or not delving too deeply into the human psyche. I can think of worse crimes, to be honest. If one criticism/defence does have weight behind it then it is that Haydn wasn’t working with top-notch librettists, but comparison of Haydn’s operas with his non-Mozartian contemporaries reveal him to be a perfectly enjoyable writer of often light but well written work which shows the expert touch of a symphonist in constructing long stretches of continuous music, especially in act finales. Admittedly, there might be a bit of forgettable padding involved along the way, however Haydn wasn’t writing for us but for the family he worked for and he had a job to get on with.


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