Franz Joseph Haydn’s “La fedeltà premiata”
(“Fidelity Rewarded”) was composed for the reopening
of the Eszterháza opera house of Eszterházy, Hungary,
after it burned to the ground in November 1779.
I recently heard a 1976 recording that was an
amalgamation of the original version, which was
written in 1780 and premiered the next year, blended
with the revised version of 1782.
As musicologist László Somfai writes in his informative
essay accompanying this three-CD set, the version
I heard was not abridged, in an effort to provide a
document of Haydn’s music for posterity. From my
perspective, this makes perfect sense, as this Haydn
work is rare, and it’s nice to hear all of the music
he composed for it. Needless to say, a staged
performance of this opera would have been
considerably shorter, in the interests of “dramatic
effectiveness.” The other challenge faced when
excavating this work was that the original score could
not be reconstructed, thereby justifying the decision
to combine the two separate versions. Not surprisingly,
it was a LONG piece to hear!
Nevertheless, the vocal solo and ensemble writing
within this score demonstrated some “prime” Haydn,
at the peak of his compositional powers.
As it is billed as a Pastorale or as a
“Dramma Pastorale Giocoso,” the requisite nymphs,
hunters, shepherds, and the like abound. There is
also the mythological addition of a sea monster
who must be placated by the sacrifice of a loving
couple, Celia and Fileno, roles that were sung by
soprano Júlia Pászthy (1947 -) and tenor Attila Fülöp
(1942 -), respectively. There are no murders in this
opera, and it ends with general rejoicing.
This recording was made at the site of the former
Eszterházy castle, on the first floor of the music hall
which boasts a very reverberant acoustic. Therefore,
the small orchestra comprised of nine violins, three celli,
three violas, one double bass, and the requisite wind
contingent sounds much larger than its numbers, and
the musicians play wonderfully for Maestro Frigyes Sandor
(1905-1979). The aforementioned singers also sound
quite good, with a standout performance from bass
József Gregor (1940 -), and they are competently
supported by a 12-member chorus.
As I mentioned earlier, this work is long and sometimes
tedious, but I’m an old hand at lengthy projects,
such as this one. In fact, I’m glad that László Somfai’s
consultations on this recording were heeded, making
it as “complete” as possible. This is a fine,
well-recorded performance and it is recommended for
the musicologically inclined.