L'isola disabitata

L'isola disabitata (The desert island), Hob. 28/9, is an opera (azione teatrale in due parti) by Joseph Haydn, his tenth opera, written for the Eszterházy court and premiered on 6 December 1779. The libretto by Metastasio, the only one by that author Haydn set,[1] was previously set by Giuseppe Bonno and subsequently used by Manuel García.[2] Nino Rota has set excerpts to music as well.

L'isola disabitata
azione teatrale by Joseph Haydn
Joseph Haydn.jpg
Portrait of the composer by Thomas Hardy, in 1791
TranslationThe desert island
Based onL'infedeltà fedele
by Giambattista Lorenzi
6 December 1779 (1779-12-06)

Haydn's work has long been remembered for its dramatic Sturm und Drang overture,[3] but the rest of the opera did not see print until H. C. Robbins Landon's 1976 edition (only available for rental). A new edition by Thomas J Busse was prepared in 2007 and is now online.[4] The piece is striking for its use of orchestral recitativo accompagnato throughout.

There is also a libretto of the same title by Carlo Goldoni (using the pen name Polisseno Fegeio), set by Giuseppe Scarlatti in 1757; it concerns a Chinese woman and Dutch sailors and was revived in 1760 (and again in Vienna in 1773) under the title La cinese smarrita.[5]


Role Voice type Premiere cast,[6] 6 December 1779
(Conductor: Joseph Haydn)
Costanza mezzo-soprano Barbara Ripamonti
Enrico baritone Benedetto Bianchi
Gernando tenor Andrea Totti
Silvia soprano Luigia Polzelli


Act 1Edit

Using the crudest of tools, Costanza is on the verge of completing an inscription on a rock next to her cave: "Abandoned by the traitor Gernando, Constanza finished her days on these strange shores. Friendly traveler, unless you be a tiger, either avenge or pity…" Her young sister Silvia enters, rejoicing that a lost pet deer has returned, and asks why Costanza is unhappy, being on such a pleasant island far from the world wicked men she has often described, but cannot cheer her. Silvia, alone, watches a ship arrive and runs to ask her sister what monster swims and flies at the same time. Her way is blocked by Gernando and his friend Enrico, and she hides, not being able to overhear their conversation. Both had been captives of pirates, Gernando seized on this very beach while his wife was recovering from seasickness. They split up to search the island, Enrico first singing of his unending gratitude to his friend for helping his escape. Silvia has managed to get a good look at him, too kind-looking to be a man, but not wearing a skirt either. She marvels as well at a new kind of fear that causes gladness: yet more questions for Constanza.

Act 2Edit

Gernando discovers the inscription and believes Constanza dead. He declares his intention to end his days on the island to Enrico; the latter decides he must be carried off by force for his own good, and instructs two sailors to lay an ambush by a stream. He comes upon Silvia who, learning he is a man after all, pleads for her life, but he wins her trust and they part to fetch the other couple. Silvia remains long enough to sing an aria putting a name to her new emotion. When she leaves, Constanza arrives, singing of the slowness of time. When Gernando appears she faints and he hurries to fetch water from the stream. Enrico enters and explains all to her; Silvia arrives with Gernando, having explained everything to the sailors after they had seized him. Enrico proposes to Silvia and the work closes with a quartet-rondo with concertante writing for solo violin and cello.



  1. ^ Ahrendt, Rebekah (13 August 2007). "Resurrecting a Haydn Gem". San Francisco Classical Voice. Archived from the original on 14 May 2008. Retrieved May 2013. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  2. ^ A-R Editions 2006
  3. ^ Schiavo, Paul (23 October 2004). "St Louis Symphony Program Notes - Haydn & Mendelssohn". Archived from the original on 7 October 2006. Retrieved May 2013. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  4. ^ "L'isola disabitata Free Public Domain Sheet Music". Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  5. ^ Groveonline
  6. ^ Rice J A. "L'isola disabitata." In: Haydn, Oxford Composer Companion, ed Wyn Jones D. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002.

External linksEdit