Opera Scotland

Isola disabitata L'isola disabitata; The Desert Island


Franz Joseph Haydn (born Rohrau, 31 March 1732; died Vienna, 31 May 1809)


Pietro Metastasio



First Performance: Eszterháza: 6 December 1779.

First Performance in UK: London (Royal Opera House Linbury Studio), 26 October 2010.

First Performance in Scotland: tbc.



L'isola disabitata is a piece that requires only the simplest of staging, as it was composed just after the opera house at Eszterháza had burnt down. Performances therefore took place in the much smaller marionette theatre. It also shows strong influences from Gluck's Orfeo, performed there not long before, including the use of recitatives accompanied by orchestra rather than harpsichord. It has a cast of only four characters in an entirely artificial setting. The music is of consistently high quality, with brief, dramatically appropriate arias.

Metastasio's libretto had been written twenty-five years before. The plot is basically an exploration of the theme of nature versus nurture - an idea popular in dramatic works of the era, such as La Dispute by Marivaux.

A projected Scottish Premiere, in the form of a concert performance in Glasgow Cathedral on 12 May 2016, has, for the time being, been postponed.



Costanza, Gernando's wife (mezzo-soprano)

Silvia, Costanza's younger sister (soprano)

Gernando, Costanza's husband (tenor)

Enrico, Gernando's companion (baritone)


Plot summary

Thirteen years before, Gernando, his wife Costanza, and her much younger sister Silvia, while travelling in the Tropics, become shipwrecked. Pirates attack, and Gernando and the other survivors are abducted, leaving Silvia to be brought up alone by Costanza.

Costanza continues to be heart-broken at the thought that they were abandoned by her husband. Silvia has grown up in an idyllic style, and is completely happy. Her knowledge of mankind is limited to the belief that they were abandoned by men, so she does not miss them. When Silvia is left alone she sees a ship approach. Two men row ashore, Gernando recognizes the island, and goes off in the hope of finding Costanza's grave, as he does not expect her to be alive. Enrico, who owes his life to Gernando and is devoted to him, is observed from hiding by the fascinated Silvia.

Gernando fails to find the looked for grave and Enrico cannot console him in his continued grief. He arranges for sailors to abduct Gernando again to get him away from the island where he wishes to die. Costanza appears, and Enrico is able to convince her of her husband's continued fidelity. When Silvia reports that Gernando is being kidnapped Enrico is able to explain the circumstances. Husband and wife are reunited, while Silvia realises that Enrico is rather different from the cruel men she had imagined.

The Cast

 Gernando's wife
 Gernando's companion
 Costanza's husband
 Costanza's younger sister

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