The Gotham Chamber Opera at the Hayden Planetarium on Wednesday, January 10.
Il mondo della luna—both the opera in general and this production in particular—is like one of Shakespeare’s fluffier comedies, the ones with identical twins and widespread cross-dressing and absurd misunderstandings. They’re interchangeable nonsense, as far as I’m concerned, so if you sit down to watch As You Like the Two Gentlemen of Errors expecting something dignified and august, the utter lunacy is disconcerting, even off-putting. But if you just go with it, embrace the mayhem, it’s endearing—not a masterpiece of Western civilization but sharper than you might expect. Plus, there’s something somehow comforting in the realization that people—even properly bewigged historical people—have always gotten a kick out of so-called low-brow pleasures we’re supposed to feel all high-brow guilty about.
Composer Franz Joseph Haydn came around about a century and half after Shakespeare, and Il mondo della luna doesn’t feature identical cross-dressing twins separated at birth (which is sad because who doesn’t love that plot device?), but the silly story of a con man who tricks a wealthy, overprotective father into believing he and his daughters have traveled to the moon is the kind of thing the Bard would have loved: broad farce with an improbable but adorable happy ending. As for the music, Haydn will always pale to his contemporary Mozart (as unfair a standard as there ever was), but at his best, he produced some of the greatest music of the Classical period, and for this production, the Gotham Chamber Opera have shamelessly trimmed more than three hours down to an hour and half of his best.