MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2023
Approaching 60,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline


Ermanno WOLF-FERRARI (1876–1948)
La vedova scaltra (The Cunning Widow) - commedia lirica in three acts (1931)
Anne-Lise Sollied (soprano) – Rosaura; Maurizio Muraro (bass) – Milord Runebif; Emanuele D’Aguanno (tenor) – Monsieur Le Bleau; Mark Milhofer (tenor) – Il Conte di Bosco Nero; Riccardo Zanellato (bass) – Don Alvaro di Castiglia; Elena Rossi (soprano) – Marionette; Alex Esposito (bass) – Arlecchino; Claudio Zancopč (baritone) – Birif; Luca Favaron (tenor) – Folletto; Antonio Casagrande (bass) – Un servo di Don Alvaro
Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro La Fenice, Venice/Karl Martin
rec. live, Teatro La Fenice, Venice, Italy, 13, 15 February 2007
The Italian libretto may be accessed at
NAXOS 8.660225-26 [75:25 + 66:17]
Experience Classicsonline

It is not every year, probably not even every decade, that we get an opportunity to see or hear an opera by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari. On an early Naxos disc (8.550240) with opera overtures and intermezzi there is music from what are probably his best known works: Il segreto di Susanna and I Gioielli della Madonna. The first mentioned, a one act comedy premiered in 1909, has been recorded a number of times: by Cetra in the 1950s with baritone Giuseppe Valdengo, by Decca in the 1970s with Maria Chiara and Bernd Weikl and somewhat later by CBS with Renata Scotto and Renato Bruson. There may be others but not to my knowledge.

Wolf-Ferrari was born in Venice to a German father and an Italian mother. He first studied art to follow in his father’s footsteps. Rather soon he realised that he wanted to be a musician. He went to Munich where he studied with Joseph Rheinberger and even then he had a special sympathy for opera, having seen works by Rossini and Wagner. In 1895 he saw Verdi’s Falstaff in Milan, less than three years after its premiere. There he was also introduced to the composer. It is the parlando style of this opera that has influenced his own works, at least La vedova scaltra. As in Falstaff there is little room for extended arias but the parlando is often condensed into arioso and aria sections with some melodically attractive themes. The music is hardly offensive, no jarring dissonances, and since there are some characters of different nationalities there is also some references to the music of the nations, where especially the Spanish flavour is well caught. The orchestra is skilfully employed in an often chamber music-like transparency with ample scope for instrumental solos. There is a lot to admire, including the only strict solo song, Rosaura’s song in act II about two separated lovers. Il Conte has a beautiful solo (CD 2 tr. 1), accompanied by plucked strings. There is a scintillating chorus that opens the last scene of the opera. As a kind of Leitmotif there is a waltz, that follows the heroine Rosaura, from her first appearance in scene 2 of the first act until the very end of the opera.

No less than five of Wolf-Ferrari´s operas are based on plays by the prolific Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni (1707–1793), including La vedova scaltra. This is a comedy about Rosaura and her four suitors from France, England, Italy and Spain. There is also a servant, Arlecchino, who functions as a go-between, bringing messages and gifts from the suitors to Rosaura. Naturally there are a lot of complications – including fights and disguises – before everything is sorted out in the last scene. Quite entertaining, in fact.

It seems quite natural that this recording was made in Venice, where playwright as well as composer were born. In a slightly dry but agreeable acoustic the balance between orchestra and soloists is as good as any other live recording I have heard. Karl Martin appears well attuned to Wolf-Ferrari’s music and the playing and choral singing cannot be faulted. In fact there is real gusto in the chorus. Of the male soloists the two tenors, Emanuele D’Aguanno and Mark Milhofer, are both excellent with light lyrical voices. Alex Esposito as Arlecchino obviously enjoys himself greatly while Maurizio Muraro and Riccardo Zanellato are competent but more anonymous. Elena Rossi is a spirited Marionette but her tone is rather edgy. The star of the performance is however the Norwegian soprano Anne-Lise Sollied as Rosaura. She is a splendid actress and sings with nice care for nuance, especially noticeable in her long solo Nella notturna selva (CD 1 tr. 9). In the final reconciliation she rises to ecstatic heights.

The Italian text can be obtained from the internet but it is quite easy to follow the plot with the help of the synopsis. The recording is also available on DVD (Naxos DVD 2.110234-35) and might be even more attractive in that form.

I do not see this set as signalling a Wolf-Ferrari renaissance but it is good to have this example of his art available in a far from negligible reading. The presence of an audience is hardly disturbing and stage noises are reduced to a minimum.

Göran Forsling 



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.