‘That my present stage-work is a legend and not a comic opera is to many a matter of surprise; yes, it can be that many people think I am attempting here territory that is new to me. Whoever knows my choral work La vita nuova that I wrote 25 years ago, will know otherwise. I was then surprised myself that, barely a year after La vita nuova, I started to write Le donne curiose, a comic opera. Today I am not surprised, since I now know much that I did not know then. Strictly speaking, every man, seen from outside, is a comic figure, and inside is a tragic one …’
– Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari
21 April 1927
on the premiere of Das Himmelskleid
Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari is best known for his comic operas. With this reputation established, the appearance of Das Himmelskleid in 1927, with its ‘symbolical twilight world… that rises musically to religious greatness and a world of dreams’ was a surprise for critics of the day. The narrative is a parable of a young princess who is born with the ‘Garment of Heaven’, but she forgets this true gift in her greedy pursuit of wealth and power. Das Himmelskleid is perhaps the most profoundly mature of Wolf-Ferrari’s operas, with an amazing sensitivity and feeling for sound and colour that were never bettered.