Excellent Performance of Late Wolf-Ferrari Lyric Comedy
Nicholas A. Deutsch | New York, NY USA | 06/01/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (1876-1948) scored his first operatic successes with 2 works based on comedies by the 18th century playwright Carlo Goldoni: "Le Donne Curiose" ("The Inquisitive Women," 1903) & "I Quatro Rusteghi" ("The 4 Curmudgeons," 1906); the latter piece is generally considered the composer's masterpiece, & there are 3 recordings of it currently on CD (I particularly like the 1953 RAI version on Warner Fonit). These operas draw on a post-"Falstaff" idiom, with more than a nod to Mozart & other 18th century models, as well as to Italian folk music, & the post-Wagner German tradition. Wolf-Ferrari's elegant, often wistful melodies, coupled with his shrewd sense of theater & character, create something uniquely charming.
"Il Campiello" is a late work (1930), a Goldoni comedy again, composed well after Wolf-Ferrari's excursions into the bloodier realms of verismo ("I Gioelli della Madonna," "Sly"). The story focuses on the inhabitants of the little Venetian square of the title, most prominently on the ups & downs of the romantic & marital prospects of 3 couples, over the course of a single, very eventful day. Wolf-Ferrari has lost none of his wit & skill: this is a delightful piece, full of good tunes, & one which moreover has a surprisingly wide emotional range, from the farce of the 2 widows hoping to find new husbands (they're played by tenors in drag) to the disturbingly harsh, even abusive conflict between one pair of lovers. Ultimately, even more than the earlier works "Il Campiello" is Wolf-Ferrari's love letter to Venice: inevitably, given the advanced age of both the composer & the century, there is a strong sense of nostalgia, which only adds to the appeal of the opera.
This live recording from a 1992 stage production in Trieste is excellent. There is a vocally strong cast - nice to hear the veteran Ugo Benelli again - headed by the delightful Daniela Mazzucato as Gasparina, an endearingly affected young woman whose departure with her new fiance, a (penniless) nobleman, ends the opera; Mazzucato sings Gasparina's touching farewell to Venice beautifully. Orchestra & chorus of the Teatro Comunale G. Verdi perform expertly under Niksa Bareza's direction & there is a complete Italian/English libretto, plus photos & good notes. An all-round pleasure."