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Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: La vedova scaltra
Anne-Lise Sollied (Rosaura), Alex Esposito (Arlecchino), Elena Rossi (Marionette), Mark Milhofer (Il Conte di Bosco Nero), Emanuele D’Aguanno (Monsieur Le Bleau), Riccardo Zanellato (Don Alvaro di Castiglia), Maurizio Muraro (Milord Runebif), Claudio Zancopè (Birif), Luca Favaron (Folletto), Antonio Casagrande (Don Alvaro’s Servant), Massimo Gasparon (Stage Director/Set Designer/Costume Designer), Davide Mancini (Video Director), Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro La Fenice, Venice, Emanuela Di Pietro (Chorus Master), Karl Martin (Conductor)
Filmed at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice, Italy (February 13-15, 2007) – 141’ 34
Naxos Ref #: 2.110234-35 – Booklet in English

The concept of yin-yang aptly describes opposing forces relating to compositions by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari. A mother of Venetian origin and a father of Bavarian roots created an even greater specter of tumultuous quandary when World War I erupted pitting Italy against Germany. Where were Wolf-Ferrari’s allegiances? Highly sensitive and tormented by the current state of Europe caused the German-Italian to seek refuge in Zurich at this time. Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari’s music well represents Italy and Germany, and an example of these two cultures is well defined in La vedova scaltra.

Carlo Goldoni, prolific Venetian playwright and librettist, did his own pattering between these two lines, involving himself in writing librettos for Mozart, Haydn and Piccini. But it would be Wolf-Ferrari who turned to Mario Ghisalberti for the libretto, based on Goldoni’s play of the same name. Massimo Gasparon’s 2007 revival of La vedova scaltra is a lavishly special production honoring the 300th anniversary of Carlo Goldoni’s birth date, and it serves lighter fare in this commedia lirica in three acts which premiered in 1931.

An operatic “League of Nations”, La vedova scaltra pits well-to-do noblemen from England, France, Spain and Italy against each other in an attempt to woo the widowed Rosaura. This comedy can be seen as a separate series of humorous tableaux, hinting at Der Rosenkavalier (specifically the costuming and characters) with moments of recitative secco (musical construction) that is strung along by the impish over dramatizations of harlequin-dressed Arlecchino marvelously crafted by Alex Esposito.

The success of this production is anchored by a strong cast, led by the beautiful soprano diction of Norwegian Anne-Lise Sollied. Her acting is superb as she manages to plot a series of spoofs with the assistance of the Mariendal-like character, Marionette, well matched by Elena Rossi.

Maurizio Muraro’s Milord Runebif is an English version of Baron Ochs while Riccardo Zanellato comes across with worthy machismo looking a bit like Luciano Pavarotti as Don Alvaro di Castiglia, articulately dressed in toreador visage. Emanuele D’Aguanno has a marvelous French arrogance as Monsieur Le Bleau possessing a voice that is both soft and velvety. “Most Pronounced” can be awarded to Mark Milhofer as Il Conte di Bosco Nero. His inflections are immaculate, and the beautiful Venetian dialect he emits is buttery and svelte.

Naxos has captured the luxuriant undertones and overtones of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari’s music with aplomb, and no detail is spared in this Massimo Gasparon production. Karl Martin’s conducting keeps the orchestra playing with fine dynamics and pleasant pacing. This release by Naxos would not have been possible without Davide Mancini’s commendable video direction. This DVD is worth collecting for any opera lover, and it rates five stars on all counts.

Christie Grimstad




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