Composer: Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari
Performer: Àngel Òdena, Judith Howarth
Orchestra: Oviedo Filarmonia
Conductor: Friedrich Haider
Number of Discs: 1
Format: FLAC (tracks)
Size: 600 MB
01-14. Wolf-Ferrari: Il segreto di Susanna
Àngel Òdena (baritone), Judith Howarth (soprano)
15-18. Wolf-Ferrari: Serenade for Strings
Recording Venue: Auditorio Principe Félipe, Oviedo, Spain
Ermanno Wolf-Ferraris prolific early career succeeded in launching a fundamental renewal of opera buffa, offering a clear alternative to the dominance of Wagner and Puccini, while his Venetian upbringing inspired a songlike and lyrical style. With its subtle orchestration and vivacious Mediterranean charm, Il segreto di Susanna (Susannas Secret) is a magical comic opera that became a box office success in its day and remains one of Wolf-Ferraris most frequently performed works. The early Serenade reveals his innate gift for inspired melody, expressing both carefree bliss and bitter melancholy.
Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari perfectly captured the spirit of opera buffa with “The Secret of Susanna.” As the genre dictates, the cast consists of only three roles (one non-singing). The action is quick, farcical, the story concise.
Wolf-Ferrari’s work follows the consequences of Suzanna hiding a secret from her increasingly jealous husband. The secret, mildly shocking for 1909, was that Suzanna smoked.
The 50-minute work is packed full of near-misses, misunderstandings, and misdirections. For this opera to work, the comedic timing has to be dead on.
And this performance succeeds on all counts. Friedrich Haider and the Oviedo Filarmonía play with energy and enthusiasm. They dig into the large, overwrought dramatic passages. But they do so with a lightness and transparency that undercuts any serious intent.
Baritone Àngel Òdena sings in a similar fashion. His near-exaggerated vibrato and phrasing just add to the fun. Judith Howarth also delivers a light, frothy performance. It’s easy for the listener to image these two singers interacting onstage with comic effect.
Wolf-Ferrari’s Serenade for Strings rounds out the album. Haider and the Oviedo Filarmonía deliver a solid performance. The interpretation seems to share some of the lightness and energy of the opera, making it an ideal companion work.