La canterina

La canterina (The Songstress or The Diva), Hob. XXVIII/2, is a short, two-act opera buffa by Joseph Haydn, the first one he wrote for Prince Esterhazy. Based on the intermezzo from the third act of Niccolò Piccinni's opera L'Origille (1760), it lasts about 50 minutes. It was written in 1766, and was premiered in the fall of that year.

La canterina
Opera buffa by Joseph Haydn
Joseph Haydn.jpg
Portrait of the composer by Thomas Hardy, in 1791
1766 (1766)

It was originally intended as a pair of intermezzi, each of the two acts coming between the acts of an opera seria. Similar works include La serva padrona by Pergolesi and Pimpinone by Telemann.


Roles, voice types, premiere cast
Role Voice type Premiere cast, 11 September 1766[1] /
16 February 1767[2]
Don Ettore soprano (en travesti) Barbara Fux-Dichtler
Apollonia soprano or tenor (en travesti) Leopold Dichtler
Don Pelagio tenor Karl Friberth
Gasparina soprano Anna Maria Weigl-Scheffstoss


Gasparina, the songstress, and her mother, Apollonia, are visited by Don Ettore, a young man who attempts to woo Gasparina with fabric and jewels stolen from his mother. When Don Pelagio, Gasparina's singing instructor and benefactor, arrives, the women attempt to disguise Don Ettore as a merchant and send him away. Don Pelagio teaches Gasparina a new aria he has written for her and asks her to marry him.

When Don Pelagio leaves, Gasparina calls Don Ettore back in. Don Pelagio has left something behind, however, and returns to catch Gasparina and Don Ettore together. Don Pelagio and Don Ettore are both angry at having been deceived and taken advantage of by the women. Don Pelagio decides to throw the women out of their apartment, which he had given them, and begins to carry away their belongings.

Gasparina pleads for forgiveness and mercy, and Don Pelagio is swayed. Not only does he allow her to stay in the apartment, but he brings his own belongings to the women. Gasparina continues to take advantage of the situation, pretending to faint. The men lavish her with money and diamonds, which have a curiously restorative effect. In the end, the men recognize Gasparina's greed, but nonetheless willingly hand over their riches.

The comic potential is enhanced by Don Ettore being played as a pants role – that is, by a woman. The role of Apollonia can also be played by a man, although Haydn wrote this role to be sung by a soprano.

There are two quartets, and all characters but Don Ettore have arias to sing.

Selected recordingsEdit


  1. ^ Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "La canterina, 11 September 1766". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).
  2. ^ Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "La canterina, 16 February 1767". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).

External linksEdit