> WOLF-FERRARI Il segreto di Susanna 0927 43616 – 2 Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Ermanno WOLF-FERRARI (1876 – 1948)
Il segreto di Susanna

Intermezzo in one act.
Il Conte Gil…Giuseppe Valdengo (tenor)
La Contessa Susanna…Elena Rizzieri (soprano)
Sante, domestico…mime
Recorded Turin: 10 November 1954
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)

La Favorita: Sinfonia
Recorded: Turin 23 November 1955
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Rigoletto: Preludio
Recorded: Turin 22-24 February 1954
Un Ballo In Maschera: Preludio
Recorded: Turin 16 November 1954
Aida: Preludio
Recorded: Turin 18 December 1956
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

Madame Butterfly: Coro a bocca chiusa
Coro Cetra- M. del coro: Giulio Mogliotti
Recorded Turin 26 July 1954
Remastered 2002
Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI /Angelo Questa
WARNER FONIT 0927 43616 – 2 [58.11]



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 preferable.

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 orchestra.

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 provided throughout.

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.

Robert McKechnie



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