Boffo performances of Wolf-Ferrari “Il segreto di Susanna”

Spoiler alert: “Il segreto di Susanna” è che fuma sigarette.* Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari perfectly captured the spirit of opera buffa with “The Secret of Susanna.” As the genre dictates, the cast consists of only three roles (one non-singing). The action is quick, farcical, the story concise.

Wolf-Ferrari’s work follows the consequences of Suzanna hiding a secret from her increasingly jealous husband. The secret, mildly shocking for 1909, was that Suzanna smoked.

The 50-minute work is packed full of near-misses, misunderstandings, and misdirections. For this opera to work, the comedic timing has to be dead on.

And this performance succeeds on all counts. Friedrich Haider and the Oviedo Filarmonía play with energy and enthusiasm. They dig into the large, overwrought dramatic passages. But they do so with a lightness and transparency that undercuts any serious intent.

Baritone Àngel Òdena sings in a similar fashion. His near-exaggerated vibrato and phrasing just add to the fun. Judith Howarth also delivers a light, frothy performance. It’s easy for the listener to image these two singers interacting onstage with comic effect.

Wolf-Ferrari’s Serenade for Strings rounds out the album. Haider and the Oviedo Filarmonía deliver a solid performance. The interpretation seems to share some of the lightness and energy of the opera, making it an ideal companion work.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari
Il segreto di Susanna; Serenade for Strings
Judith Howarth, soprano; Àngel Òdena, baritone 
Oviedo Filarmonía; Friedrich Haider, conductor
Naxos 8.660385

*Translation: “The Secret of Susanna” is a cigarette.

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