“I chanced upon a score of an opera with the title Il Segreto di Susanna (Susanna’s Secret) back in 2002 in a second-hand book store in London. I had heard its composer’s name, Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, a few times before, but his music was completely unknown to me up to this moment. As I started to read the score, I felt as though I was struck by lightning. I subsequently searched for all of Wolf-Ferrari's available scores and started to perform and to record them. This genius composer, who in his early years was among the most performed in the world, had somehow been almost forgotten after World War II.
Wolf-Ferrari belonged to the very last composers of the 20th century who believed in tonality and melodic invention. His score for Gioielli brims with seductive love songs, choruses of deep beauty, saucy serenades, old Neapolitan tunes and an orgiastic dance. "I will take the prize when I am no longer around," the composer wrote of Gioielli in the 1920s. Now, at last, it is possible to hear his great operatic achievement once again.”
Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari’s The Jewels of the Madonna was a spectacular success in its day, yet after a triumphant world tour it gathered dust until its 1953 Italian première, since when it has received but a handful of performances, culminating in May 2015 with this highly acclaimed revival at the Slovak National Theatre, Bratislava. Combining Italian lyricism with the dramatic realism of verismo and colourful folk-music, The Jewels brings mystical atmosphere and sublimely detailed musical effects to its highly suspenseful plot, delivering powerful choruses, seductive love songs, saucy serenades and orgiastic dances.
Listen to an extract from Act I: Sa dire parole di fuoco
About the Artists
Friedrich Haider was trained at the Vienna Music Academy, since when he has appeared at the leading European opera houses; he made his début at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 2006 with Rigoletto. He has conducted the Czech Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra and Camerata Salzburg, among others. From 2004 to 2010 he was principal conductor of the Oviedo Filarmonía and since autumn 2012 has been music director of the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava.
The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra was established in 1929 as the first professional symphony orchestra in Slovakia, and is currently led by conductor Mario Košik. In addition to regular season concerts, which feature works by Slovak composers, many of them as premières, the orchestra has performed at concerts abroad, visiting Austria and Hungary, and touring in Europe, Japan and Korea.
Soprano Natalia Ushakova won first prize at the 2000 Concorso Internazionale Riccardo Zandonai in Rovereto and the Concorso delle voci verdiane in Busseto, where she made her opera début as Violetta in La traviata. She has appeared in guest performances at New York’s Metropolitan Opera and at Carnegie Hall, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Vienna State Opera and at the Hamburg State Opera, among others.
Tenor Kyungho Kim, a native of Korea and prizewinner of international competitions, studied singing in Seoul and at the Berlin Universität der Künste. His first appearances were as a member of the Opera Studio of the Berlin State Opera, followed by débuts at Theater Dortmund, Opera Bratislava, Leipzig Opera, Graz Opera, the Bregenz Festival, Stuttgart Opera House and Semperoper Dresden.
Baritone Daniel Čapkovič studied at the Conservatory in Bratislava and the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz, graduating from the Faculty of Education at the Comenius University in Bratislava. He is currently a principal soloist at the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava. He regularly performs at the Janáček Theatre in Brno, the Prague National Theatre and in many European countries, the United States and Canada.
Mezzo-soprano Susanne Bernhard is a regular guest at the Herrenchiemsee Festival, the Menuhin Festival Gstaad, the Rheingau Musikfestival, and with the WDR Symphony Orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Saarland Radio, and the NHK Tokyo Orchestra, among others. Opera engagements have taken her to the Dresden Semperoper, the Kiel Opera House and Frankfurt Opera, where she sang Violetta in Verdi’s La traviata.
Tenor Peter Malý studied at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava under Professor Peter Mikuláš. He won first prize in the Opera category at the Antonín Dvořák International Singing Competition in Karlovy Vary in 2015. He has performed many rôles in productions by the Slovak National Theatre, and as a guest soloist of the State Opera in Banská Bystrica.
Bass František Ďuriač studied in Bratislava and was a prize-winner at the 1996 International Mikuláš Schneider-Trnavský Competition. He has sung numerous roles as soloist with the Slovak National Theatre Opera. He appeared in Pretoria, South Africa, in Verdi’s Attila and Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer. In 2011 he sang Scarpia in performances of Tosca under the baton of Giorgio Croces with the Prague State Opera.
Also available from Naxos Opera Classics
“Leonard Slatkin conducts with admirable delicacy, with a nice attention to detail. The entire cast is excellent, in fact, but Frédéric Antoun’s absurd, self-regarding poet deserves a special mention.”
“Franz Hauk, who has done so much for Mayr and is surely the greatest living authority on the composer, conducts with authority and panache. The singers are uniformly impressive, with the principals entering into the drama of the opera rather than just singing beautifully.”
– MusicWeb International
“The pleasure I have had from listening to the CD version of this production of La vedova scaltra makes me keen to see the companion DVD (Naxos 2.110234–35).”
– MusicWeb International
“Soprano Dušica Bijelić is first-rate in the title role, singing with tonal beauty, technical excellence, musicality, and dramatic commitment. Conductor Giovanni Battista Rigon leads a vibrant performance.”