12 September 2016 | TheLittleSongbird
Doesn't completely work, but is enormously enjoyable when it does
'Il Mondo Della Luna' is certainly an interesting discovery. It is never going to be up there with the all-time great operas, but it does have its entertainment and charms and Haydn's music is gorgeously melodic and deliciously energetic, even insane in a good way.
Where it doesn't quite score so successfully is in the story. It has many moments where it is entertaining (especially when it pokes fun at the advances in science) and charming, at the same time even for a classical-era opera it is old-fashioned and can fall into ridiculousness, complete with stereotypical characters with not much depth. This is a very interesting and often enormously enjoyable production, though it doesn't completely work.
The modern setting doesn't always gel well with the libretto, which is quite specific, and the spirit of the text, often actually it does jar and pretty badly, and it makes the storytelling confused and muddled. Also some of the slapstick is a little overdone and silly.
However, the technical aspects of the DVD are superb, in video directing, picture quality and sound, and much of the staging, when not overdone or jarring, is hilariously witty and clever, really trying to make the story less ridiculous, and has enough nuance and emotional investment to give depth and sincerity to the characters.
Musically the production is flawless, with lively and nuanced orchestral playing and Nikolaus Harnoncourt giving some of his most inspired and dramatically alive conducting on any DVD production featuring him, succeeding in giving palpable humanity and tension.
Performances are without complaint across the board, the singing is phenomenal and the acting has so much heart, expression and soul. This is particularly true of Dietrich Henschel and Vivica Genaux, who inject sympathy and such to their characters truly magnificently, but there is not a weak link really in the cast.
Overall, doesn't completely work in every work but when it does, which is most of the time particularly musically, it is enormously enjoyable. 8/10 Bethany Cox