Sunday, 26 February 2017


Today’s Quote of the Day comes to us from 18th century Austrian Classical composer Franz Joseph Haydn, in honor of the 233rd anniversary of the premiere of his opera Armida, which held it’s debut this 26th day of February in 1784 at the Opera House of Esterháza:


“It is the melody which is the charm of music, and it is that which is most difficult to produce. The invention of a fine melody is a work of genius.”

- Joseph Haydn
Did You Know?

Herr Haydn’s beautifully melodic Armida would be written and premiered during the composers’ lengthy tenure as Kapellmeister to the royal Esterházy court, specifically for the Opera House at the rural Palace of Esterháza (of which Haydn became a resident, as a “house officer;” located some 40 km (25 mi) outside of the Esterházy primary home (Schloss Esterházy) in Eisenstadt.

Haydn, who considered Armida to be his finest work (justly so: it would serve as the most successful of the composer’s operas to have been staged at the theater), would have undoubtedly attached much sentimental value to the work, as it would be the last opera he would pen for the Opera House of Esterháza.

Armida was notable for both theater and composer as it would be Haydn’s first venture into the genre of opera seria at the palace opera house – a genre first introduced at Esterháza by the Italian composer Giuseppe Sarti in 1783 with the wildly successful production of Giulio Sabino. Within a month of Giulio’s… premiere at the theater, Haydn was already informing his publisher of his intent to compose in the genre (perhaps driven by the immense popularity of Sarti’s opera, or due to possible pressure from reigning Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, Haydn’s most important patron). Sarti himself would attend a performance of Armida in 1784, during which the Italian musician reportedly befell so overcome with a feeling of exquisite bliss, he could barely contain himself: allegedly

“jump[ing] over the benches that separated him from the orchestra, and leap[ing] to embrace the astonished maestro,” exclaiming, "It's Sarti who embraces you! Sarti, who wanted to see the great Haydn, to admire his beautiful works, but who had no hope of admiring anything so beautiful as this!" [1]

Apparently, Sarti was not the only one to have been bewitched by Haydn’s Armida: the opera would boast an unprecedented run of 54 performances over a short time span of just four years (from 1784 – 1788). 

Listen below to a moving rendition of "Se pietade avete, oh Numi" (If you feel pity) from Act I of Franz Joseph Haydn's Armida. Italian mezzo-soprano Cecila Bartoli performs under late maestro Nikolaus Harnoncourt:


[1](Source of Quoted text): 18th century music critic and theorist Nicolas-Étienne Framery of Rouen.

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