Baldassare Galuppi (1706-85), almost forgotten now, was one of the most famous composers of the 18th century. His career centered in Venice, where he was maestro di capella at St. Mark's, but he also had great success in London and Moscow. He wrote in a variety of genres, but his enduring reputation rests mainly on his contributions to the development of opera buffa, the comedies in music that culminated in the work of Rossini. He moved these operas away from stock figures and situations to more popular themes and greater characterization, and they made him so famous that when he died he was said to be the wealthiest composer in Europe.
His Il mondo della luna, written in 1750, is the earliest of three well-known settings of Carlo Goldoni's cynical Venetian farce; the others are by Paisiello (1774) and Haydn (1777). The plot is typical Baroque nonsense, involving the successful efforts of the charlatan astrologer Ecclittico and his friends to dupe the credulous Buonafede into believing he has been transported to the moon, where he is so impressed by what he sees and hears that he allows his two daughters and his servant Lisetta to marry them. This allows for the kind of satirical commentary on manners and the extravagant costumes and stage effects that must have delighted Venetian audiences - and in the right hands, could delight us as well.
Unfortunately, this production doesn't quite hit the mark. It's not the fault of the young Italian singers, who have good voices and deftly characterize their roles. Galuppi was a skillful composer, but he wrote few memorable tunes, and his orchestration is competent in its conservative way but not remarkably imaginative. To overcome these defects, this kind of farce needs to take your mind off them by bubbling along merrily from start to finish, and that doesn't really happen here, because Piva's leadership is rather slack and the orchestra sounds rather dreary. Still, this is an interesting example of early opera buffa and an engaging work .
Copyright © 1999, Alexander J. Morin