Issue 10: Italian Opera

Welcome to Issue 10 – we are now in double figures! For this issue we have travelled along the Mediterranean and arrived in Italy. We’re looking at three Italian operas: one by Verdi and two by the lesser-known composer Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari.

Matthew Kofi Waldren conducted Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera earlier this year at Opera Holland Park, London. Previously a singer for ten years before becoming a conductor, Matthew has a very well rounded understanding of opera, and the Italian repertoire in particular. It was fascinating to hear about his relationship with Verdi’s music, and the particular nature of preparation required for a successful performance.

I spoke with John Andrews about Wolf-Ferrari’s Il Segreto di Susanna whilst he was still in rehearsals (also at Opera Holland Park), and the production went on to receive incredible reviews and recognition. Branded ‘the best performance of the year’ and ‘one of OHP’s greatest achievements’ I felt very lucky to have cornered him early on in the process! Il Segreto di Susanna is an unusual work and very difficult to conduct. In this second interview, John explains how he deals with Wolf-Ferrari’s ever-shifting styles, comic timing and characterisation (along with much more!).

Studying Il Segreto di Susanna inspired me to look further into the Wolf-Ferrari repertoire. Frederich Haider is the conductor who rediscovered the composer (in a second hand bookstore in London), and continues to be one of Wolf-Ferrari’s main advocates. Reviving lost works can be such an exciting part of a conductor’s role, so it was a delight to be able to speak with Friedrich about his journey of discovery. He has now recorded a number of Wolf-Ferrari’s works, including the opera he discussed with me: Il Gioielli della Madonna.

If Italian opera and the bel canto repertoire are of particular interest to you, I strongly suggest you also take a look at the interviews with Sir Mark Elder (Issue 1: July 2017) and Duncan Ward (Issue 2: October 2017), which contain a huge wealth of information and wisdom that can be applied to your own score study or research.

As always, I would like to thank Matthew, John and Friedrich for their time and involvement with the project. Huge thanks also to Opera Holland Park, who put me in touch with Matthew and John and inspired me to look further into the work of Wolf-Ferrari.

Happy Reading!

Dr. Hannah Baxter