In a lengthy essay entitled “The Dramaturgy of Italian ”, Carl Dahlhaus offers a wide-ranging and thought-provoking general overview of the librettist’s role in writing a poetic text for the musical . His article provides a convenient starting place for theorizing about the function, nature, and substance of the in opera, since here Dahlhaus ruminates (not exactly in this order) on the meaning and nature of musical dramaturgy, opera aesthetics, the various means of musical available to of opera in a given era, opera genres and literary forbearers, the dynamics of the theatre, and formats of the libretto. In a section entitled “The libretto and its function” he observes: “it is not skill at writing verse that determines the librettist’s métier but a talent for producing a scenario as true to the musical- formal conventions or emerging trends of its time as to the maxim that creates its own specific kind of dramatic art, which is not the same as that of the spoken .”1 If a librettist is to “rise above mere theatrical jobbery”, he must produce a text that “provides musical drama with the condition of possibility”.2 What kinds of -dramatic “conditions of possibility” are evident in the libretto Carlo Francesco Badini (fl. 1770-93) crafted for Haydn’s operatic debut in London in 1791? Did the libretto Badini penned on the theme help or hinder Haydn in

1 Carl Dahlhaus, “The Dramaturgy of ”, in Opera in Theory and Practice, Image and Myth, eds Lorenzo Bianconi and Giorgio Pestelli, The History of Opera, Vol. VI (1988), trans. Mary Whittall, Chicago, 2003, 85. 2 Ibid., 86. As Dahlhaus elaborates: “the characteristics of a successful libretto are the subject’s amenability to the structure and sense of the musical forms of the time; presentation of the essential elements of the action onstage, in the drama’s present time, thus avoiding complicated prehistory and concealed strands of plot; attention to contemporary ideas about what can and what cannot be set to music; and finally responsiveness to dominant contemporary genres.” 108 Caryl Clark establishing his foreign credentials as a notable for the operatic ? Was Badini one of those less than inspiring “theatrical jobbers?” Or has the opera’s astonishingly long period of idleness more to do with developments in musical historiography (or us) than with intrinsic problems allied to the libretto itself? Did Europe’s most famous and highly respected composer in the late-eighteenth century suffer the ignominy of working with a hack librettist in the English capital, a location where he might have expected to work with one of the very best, given the city’s decades-long history as a leading centre of Italian not to mention its long legacy of dramatic excellence, its burgeoning industry of literary critical reflection, as well as its international artistic prestige and economic stature? Or did Badini rise to the occasion and create a libretto that we in the musicological community have yet to fully comprehend and appreciate? Arriving in bustling London from a rural court setting and similarly sequestered Habsburg capital, Haydn might well have expected to collaborate with a gifted librettist worthy of his distinguished reputation. That said, Badini’s libretto for Haydn’s last opera, L’anima del filosofo, , a peculiar telling of the Orpheus myth, has been routinely denigrated by historians and critics alike. Variously translated as “The soul (or mind) of the philosopher”, or “The spirit of the philosopher”, this , cast in 4 or 5 Acts, features four main characters – Orfeo (), Euridice (), her father Creonte (high ), and the underworld guide sibyl, Genio (?) – together with a few minor roles and many choruses and . And who might the philosopher of the title be? Is it the iconic singer-rhetorician; or the patriarchal figure, Creonte; or the advice-giving Genio; or the animating spirit of Euridice; or possibly some other external referent? The meaning of the opera’s enigmatic title is not immediately clear, creating an interpretive ambiguity that is, I would argue, one of its many strengths. In creating a perplexing libretto, Badini inscribes hermeneutic “possibility” alongside musical potential. At this point in my narrative, a quick plot summary of this curious Orpheus opera is in order, for, although the main trajectory of the story is familiar to most, several significant details are new – harbingers, perhaps, of a new dramatic aesthetic for a classically inspired music drama: