This three act comic opera was first stages at Esterhaza, the summer palace of the princely Esterhazy family on September 16, 1770, in connection with the wedding of Prince Nicolaus's niece, Countess Lambert, to a Count Poggi or Pocci. An eyewitness account says that it received "universal and well-deserved applause" and that the composer received "the most flattering praise from all the illustrious guests." Another sign of general approval is that it was repeated two days later. It is quite the largest-scale theatrical item yet presented in Prince Nicolaus's private theater; Haydn had to hire musicians from a nearby estate to beef up his permanent company. It calls for pairs or flutes, oboes, English horns, and bassoons, two horns optional pair of trumpets and timpani, and strings with a harpsichord continuo.
Unfortunately, a fire at Esterhaza in 1779 destroyed the original parts and short scores for the singers, and the score that survived was incomplete, comprising only about two-thirds of the whole opera. A complete libretto did survive. H.C. Robbins Landon and associates reconstructed the opera for the 1965 Holland Festival. Initially they used the first movement of Symphony no 57 as an overture, although later the discovery of a missing symphony (catalogued as Hob. I:106) provided a more authentic choice. In like manner they added music from other Haydn sources.
The title of the opera means "The Fisher-Women. The plot involves two fishermen who have recently become engaged. The story tells how they almost undo this engagements through foolishness and pretension. There are seven principal singers. The music nicely contrasts the fisher-folk and a group of nobles associated with a visiting Duke. The emotional variety of the music is broad, including the pain of losing a child, a lovely evocation of a warm night along the Mediterranean, and many comic pages.