Students from the Faculty of Music warm up for the upcoming production of Haydn's Il Mondo della Luna. Students from the Faculty of Music warm up for the upcoming production of Haydn's Il Mondo della Luna. Alex Nursall

For those who thought opera was only for the melancholy, U of T’s Faculty of Music is brightening things up. A joyous buzz sets the tone at the first full dress rehearsal at the MacMillan Theatre on November 3, as the cast and directors prepare for the November 5 opening night of Franz Joseph Haydn’s 1777 comedic opera, Il Mondo della Luna (The World on the Moon).

A bright “that’s awesome!” resounds from the pit, where the enthusiastic conductor, Miah Im, gives her orchestra some last instructions before they go into the first act. Co-directors Michael Patrick Albano and Erik Thor chat vigorously with various people in the audience. The cast in full make-up, hair, and costume then warm their vocal chords with an enthused "Happy Birthday."

An innovative composer, Haydn created mainly drammi giocosi, comic operas involving situation comedy and ridiculous psychological predicaments in which the comic dialogue is interspersed with amusing, intimate ensembles and arias.

"Haydn had a great sense of humour in life," says Im during a short break after the first act, "and it comes through in the orchestration of his music. He contrasts the dynamics very quickly."

The idea to perform Il Mondo della Luna was set forth by U of T’s pre-eminent Haydn scholar Caryl Clark, in celebration of the bicentenary of his death; 2009 is also the International Year of Astronomy, a key topic in the opera’s plot.

The story is set in 18th century Italy. An old man, Buonafede, has two beautiful daughters, Flaminia and Clarice, who he refuses to marry off. Meanwhile, he is infatuated with their handmaiden Lisetta. When Flaminia’s astrologer suitor Ecclitico decides to play a trick on the foolish, old man by convincing him that he has been transported to the moon, hilarious mal-entendres ensue.

"It’s a very amusing, zany, improbable story," says Albano. "It's one of those comedies where things are complicated, but you know everything is going to turn out well for the young people.”

Both Albano and Im agree that the high point of the performance is the beginning of the second act, when Buonafede wakes up thinking he is on the moon. While Im is fascinated by the opening music, Albano is particularily proud of the set construction: “It was hard to figure out what the moon should look like, and I was watching a documentary on Apollo, and that’s where I got the idea to have the earth in view in the distance.” Albano also overrode the script’s original strict guidelines about location to make the action more fluid.

An opera for dreamers, the performance is sure to captivate imaginations across campus.

Il Mondo della Luna, starring Faculty of Music Opera students Vasil Garvanliev, Rebecca Collett, Lindsay Barrett, and Chris Enns, runs through Nov. 8th at the MacMillan Theatre, 80 Queen's Park. Tickets are $16 students, $26 regular.

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