Morning names: The Secret of Susanna, The Jewels of the Madonna

They came as a pair, two operatic works whose names have the same syntactic pattern. Only a bit later did I realize that they were works by the same composer, Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari.

The Secret of Susanna. From Wikipedia:

Il segreto di Susanna (English: Susanna’s Secret, German: Susannens Geheimnis) is an intermezzo in one act by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari to an Italian libretto by Enrico Golisciani. The premiere of the opera was in German, in a translation by Max Kalbeck, at the Hoftheater in Munich on 4 December 1909.

Susanna’s secret is that she’s a cigarette smoker — a rather scandalous thing for an upper-class woman (Susanna is a countess) of her day.

It’s all charmingly slight, and the music is equally frothy.

A recording:


and the Susanna overture from this recording is here:

The Jewels of the Madonna. A different sort of work entirely. From Wikipedia:

I gioielli della Madonna (English: The Jewels of the Madonna) is an opera in three acts by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari to an Italian libretto by Carlo Zangarini and Enrico Golisciani, based on news accounts of a real event.

It was first performed at the Kurfürstenoper in Berlin on 23 December 1911 under the title Der Schmuck der Madonna. That performance was in German, but now it is usually given in Italian. (Wolf-Ferrari stated that his operas were often first given in German simply because he had a German publisher.)

… Its controversial themes include love between a brother and his adopted sister, implied criticism of the Catholic Church, and an on-stage orgy.

The album cover for one recording (chosen for its visual pleasures):


And a performance of the intermezzo from this work, in a recording by the London Symphony Orchestra, is here:

The composer.


Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (born Ermanno Wolf [Wolf was his father’s name; his mother was Italian, named Ferrari]) (January 12, 1876 – January 21, 1948) was an Italian composer and teacher. He is best known for his comic operas such as Il segreto di Susanna (1909). A number of his works were based on plays by Carlo Goldoni, including Le donne curiose (1903), I quatro rusteghi (1906) and Il campiello (1936).

His opera Cenerentola (1900) was at first a failure, then a success in a revised version. But it was eclipsed by Rossini’s 1816 opera La Cenerentola. At this point,

Wolf-Ferrari … began transforming the wild and witty farces of the 18th-century Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni into comic operas. The resulting works were musically eclectic, melodic, and utterly hilarious; every single one became an international success. In fact, until the outbreak of World War I, Wolf-Ferrari’s operas were among the most performed in the world.

In 1911 Wolf-Ferrari tried his hand at full bloodied Verismo with I gioielli della Madonna; a story of passion, sacrilege and madness. It was quite popular in its day and for a period after, especially in Chicago, where the great Polish soprano Rosa Raisa made it a celebrated vehicle. Maria Jeritza (and, later, Florence Easton) triumphed in it at the Metropolitan Opera, in an all-out spectacular production in 1926.

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