'La vedova scaltra'
by Wolf-Ferrari -
'... a captivating performance.'
I am delighted that Turner is still advertised on the Rialto bridge for a Fenice performance, as he was when I reviewed Luisa Miller in March. But this time the theatre can offer visual complements to the glories of the city. Massimo Gasparon has devised for the heroine Rosaura a bedroom enticing enough to house all four of her suitors, a new Venetian piazza with central anonymous statue, and a sumptuous ballroom with background baldachino apparently imported from the grandest cathedral in the world.
Wolf-Ferrari shrewdly wrote five operas on Goldoni plays, of which this is the fourth; and the 2007 production celebrates the three hundredth anniversary of Goldoni's birth. The composer's Italian mother led him towards late Verdi, his German father to ubiquitous Strauss. The resulting mix is conversational, quick-witted, deft, and cunningly orchestrated. It must be said at once that the Norwegian Rosaura of Anne-Lise Sollied as the cunning widow deserves every scrap of affection Wolf-Ferrari has lavished on her. It is a captivating performance.
The opera opens with English lord, French monsieur, Italian count, and Spanish don carousing their fill before eventually discussing an assault on Rosaura. The nationality of each can be deduced from the sash he wears. Or can it? I leave that to the ingenuity of the viewer.
Watch and listen -- Damigella, bruna e bella (Act 1 Scene 1)
(DVD1 chapter 2, 1:34-3:16) © 2008 Naxos Rights International Ltd
At present an English ring is pitted against Spanish dubloons. The following morning the recently widowed Rosaura is being prepared for the day by Elena Rossi as her French maid Marionette, who counsels a Frenchman for the future, as he will never be jealous.
Watch and listen -- Et comme ça (Act 1 Scene 2)
(DVD1 chapter 3, 9:24-10:27) © 2008 Naxos Rights International Ltd
Riccardo Zanellato's Don Alvaro seeks to win through force of numbers and the glories of his family tree. He calls at Rosaura's in a gilded gondola, accompanied by attendants male and female apparently ready at the slightest musical hint to clatter into flamenco.
Watch and listen -- Ma che son questi suoni? (Act 1 Scene 2)
(DVD1 chapter 10, 39:16-41:00) © 2008 Naxos Rights International Ltd
The still heart of the opera is a lovely performance by Rosaura to keyboard accompaniment in her boudoir of an enchanting song about the enforced separation of rural Daphnis and Amaryllis.
It is in the quiet piazzetta that Rosaura will eventually carry out her plan to test the four potential lovers. For the moment, though, it is the scene of a brisk altercation between the English lord of Maurizio Muraro and Mark Milhofer as Count Bosco Nero.
Watch and listen -- E non vuole parlare! (Act 2 Scene 3)
(DVD2 chapter 1, 0:20-1:18) © 2008 Naxos Rights International Ltd
But the Count is already virtually assured by letter that the fair widow will remain Italian. Rosaura explains her scheme to Marionette at the beginning of Act 3. She will mask herself when dressed in the costume of all four nationalities so as to encounter the men with temptation of a new love.
Watch and listen -- Ascolta, Marioné, il mio progetto (Act 3)
(DVD2 chapter 6, 25:20-27:05) © 2008 Naxos Rights International Ltd
At the concluding ball the four suitors will be confronted with their alternative temptress. Indeed they are, as Marionette stands armed with bow and arrow as Cupid, and Rosaura explains that only the Italian count had remained steadfast in his devotion to her.
Watch and listen -- Signori miei, vo' farvi un discorsetto (Act 3, last scene)
(DVD2 chapter 12, 64:07-66:02) © 2008 Naxos Rights International Ltd
It is indeed a joyous work, with an infinity of complications masterminded by Arlecchino. The Fenice team is on top form, and one can only rejoice in what must be an inevitable revival of interest in Wolf-Ferrari, who was born with The Ring and died with Strauss.
Copyright © 20 July 2008
Robert Anderson, Cairo, Egypt
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Wolf-Ferrari: La vedova scaltra
2.110234-35 2xDVD5 NTSC 16:9 All regions Digital DTS Surround / Dolby Digital NEW RELEASE 75'21"/66'13" - TT 141'34" 2008 Naxos Rights International Ltd
Anne-Lise Sollied, Rosaura; Maurizio Muraro, Milord Runebif; Emanuele D'Aguanno, Monsieur Le Bleau; Mark Milhofer, Il Conte di Bosco Nero; Riccardo Zanellato, Don Alvaro di Castiglia; Elena Rossi, Marionette; Alex Esposito, Arlecchino; Claudio Zancopè, Birif; Luca Favaron, Folletto; Antonio Casagrande, Un servo di Don Alvaro; Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro La Fenice, Venice; Karl Martin, conductor; Emanuela Di Pietro, chorus master; Massimo Gasparon, director, sets, costumes; Davide Mancini, video director
Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (1876-1948): La vedova scaltra (The Cunning Widow), Commedia lirica in three acts, libretto by Mario Ghisalberti after the play by Carlo Goldoni. Filmed at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice, 13 and 15 February 2007