Il mondo della luna

Jan 20, 2010

Huffington Post

Fern Seigel

Consider it must-see opera. In a first for the Hayden Planetarium, it will stage Joseph Haydn's comic opera Il Mondo Della Luna through Jan. 28. Trimmed to 100 minutes sans intermission, the intimate setting, which utilizes a 180-degree dome and gorgeous light projections, fuses opera and stargazing in a night to remember.

The production, from the Gotham Chamber Opera, is masterful -- thanks to a remarkable cast and Anka Lupes' outrageously inventive costumes. Director Diane Paulus, a Tony winner for Hair, keeps the action, performed on an elevated platform, lively. The intricacies of laser technology co-mingle with this fanciful 1777 work, which boasts glorious music augmented by the harpsichord. Plus, a Zeiss Mark IX Star Projector recreates the night sky. Il Mondo is an extraordinary way to experience the medium.

The story concerns a lascivious but strict nobleman (Marco Nistico) with two daughters (Hanan Alattar and Albina Shagimuratova) who denies them marriage to their true loves. But thanks to a fake astronomer (Nicholas Coppolo), who tricks the pompous fool into believing he is on the moon, the women get hefty dowries and the husbands they desire.

For music buffs, it's a chance to enjoy a rarely done opera; Haydn wrote for Esterházy princes and staged his efforts in royal summer retreats. Neal Goren, the founding artistic director of Gotham Chamber Opera, wrote in a program note: "This is not only the best of Haydn, this is the best of music."

For fans of the Hayden Planetarium, it's a second opportunity to enjoy the museum's space shows. Its ongoing wonder -- Journey to the Stars -- features extraordinary images of space, coupled with Robert Miller's exhilarating score. During this singular adventure, which details celestial happenings over billions of years, viewers get a solar education. Il Mondo gives the setting a whimsical twist.