This CD is not going to set
the world on fire; but nor will it harm any
collection of operatic music. If you agree
that operatic librettos are often foolish,
if not downright silly, and yet you still
love the art form, then you will not be incredulous
that a husband of a month does not know that
his wife smokes; that on smelling tobacco
smoke he thinks she has a lover and after
ridiculous jealous behaviour, that all is
resolved and they smoke happily ever after.
This was written in 1907 after all.
The advantage / disadvantage
if this particular CD is that it is, for all
practical purposes, a concert recording without
audience. Therefore there are neither background
clogged feet moving across wooden stage and
nor are there the usual asthmatic audience
interjections. The obverse is that whereas
the synopsis refers to "the dumb servant
… with comic gestures", that little piece
of entertainment escapes us entirely for there
is no audience prompted amusement. By the
standards of some ‘live’ remasterings or releases
I have heard recently, this is infinitely
You have not heard of Wolf-Ferrari?
Play the introduction / overture / sinfonia
and ‘where have I heard this before’ will
spring to your lips on several occasions.
Taken at a canter leading into a gallop, Angelo
Questa drives the orchestra forward. There
is just time for some variations of pace and
dynamics but not much; and dare I wonder if
there has been a slight tweaking up of the
speed on the recording? Could a wind section
really rattle through the later parts so quickly?
Probably not. Does it matter? Not really because
it provides the benchmark for a recording
that is not going to hang around.
Fortunately, most fortunately,
both soloists have diction clarity, which
could be set as a model for some of our younger
singers. Giuseppe Valdengo sings Count Gil,
our confused husband. A permanently perplexed
state straying towards the seriously jealous:
so not much chance for vocal characterisation;
but what there is he takes and takes very
well. In the first part, before the interlude,
he has the aria – if I can call it that without
offending. In the second part the aria is
Susanna’s, the fag-smoking new Countess sung
by Elena Rizzieri.
Valdengo’s short phrases
in "Si, ben lo conosco l’odor molesto"
have a charm of delivery whilst his following
recitative has a highly polished central section,
sung piano, which he infuses with a
beautiful tone. The recitative then takes
us forward to the duet "Il dolce idillio,
dimmi, rammenti" which is quite delightful:
excellent dynamics and a good vocal balance
between the soloists and between them and
The only serious reservation
I have is about Rizzieri’s higher tessitura
where she is vocally secure and comfortable
with no sign of strain – but I am not so very
comfortable with an occasional harsh, almost
brittle, tone. Plainly there was nothing the
recording engineers could do about this. However
they have captured well the occasional floated
note which hangs as if suspended in mid-air.
When singing at ordinary volume and in mid-range
she has a relaxing and clear tone which aids
diction enormously which itself is helped
by Questa’s orchestral control. Excellent
orchestral punctuation and accompaniment is
This charming little intermezzo
- operetta in story but opera in music: a
comment I must analyse sometime – has very
many excellent qualities which are all shown
to their advantage.
It is a pity that there is
no translation of the full libretto provided
but you cannot have everything. I would have
been content with that 40-odd minutes’ worth
of pleasure. However, as a tribute to Angelo
Questa there are four preludes and a humming
chorus from other operas thrown in to take
the recording time up to the respectable 58.11.
These are satisfactory as far as they go –
but it is nowhere near as far as other recordings
of the same. There is little extraction of
colour and tone and whilst there is dynamic
variation, the pace is variable. Take the
prelude to Rigoletto, through here
in two minutes whilst generally I would expect
at least three minutes of nuance extraction.
Sadly these ‘fillers’ add nothing to the CD.