Haydn Takes London


Joseph Haydn had been in London for three months and was succeeding mightily with English audiences. On March 14th, 1791 he wrote to a friend in Vienna:

“I have plenty to do because of all the concerts and opera, and I am hounded all the time by the subscription concerts. Our opera hasn’t opened yet, and since the king won’t grant the license, the director of the opera plans to open it as if it were a subscription concert because if he doesn’t he just may lose twenty thousand pounds sterling. I won’t lose anything because my bankers in Vienna have already received my money.

“My opera, which is called The Philosopher’s Mind, will be staged at the end of May. I’ve already finished the second act, but there are five acts, the last two of which are quite short. In order to show the public his theater, his opera and his ballet, the director of the opera came up with the shrewd idea of arranging a few days ago a dress rehearsal just as if it were opening night. He distributed four thousand tickets and more than five thousand people showed up.

“The opera Piero by Paisiello was a great success. Only our prima donna is a silly goose and I’m not going to use her in my opera. The ballet was absolutely magnificent. Now we are waiting for a yes or no from the king. And if our theater is opened, the other theater–that of our competitors–will have to close its doors because the castrato and the prima donna are too old and their opera didn’t appeal to anyone.

“At Mr. Salomon’s first concert I created an uproar with a new symphony and they had to repeat the Adagio–which had never before happened in London. Just imagine what it means to hear such praise from the lips of Englishman!”

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