This two-volume set is a delight. I am a big fan of Haydn's music, but until fairly recently I didn't even know that he had written any operas. I came across this set comprising eight operas over the two volumes and took a chance on the basis that I couldn't go too far wrong buying twenty discs of Haydn's music by first-rate musicians for such a reasonable price. I was right.
If you know Dorati's Haydn symphony cycle you will know that he's a brilliant Haydn conductor. In the operas as in the symphonies he gets exactly the right balance of structure, melody and emotion and that knowing Haydn twinkle emerges in all the right places. The orchestra is excellent and the singers include Jessye Norman, Arleen Auger, Elly Ameling, Benjamin Luxon, Anthony Rolfe Johnson... Even the less well-known singers seem to these ears to be really excellent and the combination of Haydn's music and these performers produces something really special in places.
In my view, many of Haydn's works - the symphonies, mass settings, string quartets and piano trios, for example - are at least the equal of Mozart's. As entire works, the same cannot be said of the operas. The plots, even by the very forgiving standards of opera, are largely fatuous and there is a lot of recitative which (although true opera buffs will disapprove of this) I find extremely tedious. However, I programme my CD player to cut out the recitative and what emerges is some truly wonderful vocal and choral writing, magnificently performed. These operas may not be dramatic masterpieces but they contain a wealth of magnificent and sadly neglected music.
At this price in slimline format there is no libretto included, but you do get a synopsis of each opera with references to the relevant track numbers, which is largely enough, I found. The packaging is attractive and the notes informative and very interesting. Minor reservations aside, I am delighted with these sets and get very great pleasure from them. I am sure you will too if you like Haydn or Mozart. In addition, they are a monumental bargain and I recommend them very highly.