Karl Martin

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: La vedova scaltra

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Wolf-Ferrari wrote his La vedova scaltra (The Cunning Widow) in 1931, but it could easily be mistaken for a work from the turn of the century. In fact, there are significant sections that sound like they could have been written in the mid-nineteenth century if it weren't for the occasional intrusion of a Puccini-ism or Lehár-ism. Wolf-Ferrari's proto-polystylism may not be everyone's cup of tea, but the composer could write a good tune, and there are a number of them in the opera. There is also a good deal of pedestrian filler and recitative that may be meaningful on-stage, but it is less so on disc. The opera is no masterpiece, but its 2007 revival at Teatro La Fenice, on which this recording is based, was certainly not a waste of resources. The play by Goldoni on which it's based is witty, and Wolf-Ferrari had a genuine gift for amusing music, which is rare enough among opera composers. The performance is very fine, as would be expected from a major international opera house. The orchestra and chorus perform with finesse and spirit. It's hard to identify particular soloists from the scant information in the CD booklet, but Anne-Lise Sollied is especially effective in the title role, and the quality of the singing is consistently high. All the singers sound like they are having a terrific time, and their enthusiasm goes a long way in making a case for the opera. The sound is very good for a live recording, with just a little low-level noise that's easy to overlook. The odds are that this will remain the sole available recording for a while; it may be of interest to fans of obscure operatic repertoire.

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