This dissertation situates the operatic activity of Joseph Haydn within the political and cultural context of the palace of Eszterhaza, with an emphasis on the three operas set to texts by Carlo Goldoni: Lo speziale (1768); Le pescatrici (1769/1770); Il mondo della luna (1777). Also considered are other settings of the same texts by Bertoni, Fischietti, Pallavicini, Galuppi, Gassmann, and Paisiello. The alterations in these various settings and productions illustrate the inadequacy of approaching opera as a closed text. Following Bakhtin, opera is theorized as a grotesque body whose dynamic patterns of growth and decay highlight shifts in representation in changing historical and cultural contexts.
The operas are analyzed with an emphasis on the way in which power is articulated musically; on the representation of gender, class, and race; and on the role of music in the resolution of the plot. Despite the use of carnivalesque devices such as parody, travesty, and reverse worlds, Haydn's Goldoni operas do not challenge the hierarchical status quo established in the librettos so much as they reinforce it. However, Goldoni's view of an ordered society is informed by bourgeois ideology, expressed through the paradigm of the domestic family. Haydn's music emphasizes a sentimental view of marriage which undermines rather than reinforces traditional aristocratic values, especially in the performance contexts of the wedding celebrations for which these operas were composed.