Wolf-Ferrari: Das Himmelskleid

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COMPOSERS: Wolf-Ferrari
LABELS: Marco Polo
WORKS: Das Himmelskleid
PERFORMER: Angelina Ruzzafante, Sibrand Basa, Reinhard Leisenheimer; Hagen Theatre Opera Chorus, Hagen PO/Gerhard Markson
CATALOGUE NO: 8.223261/63
The latest in Marco Polo’s valuable series of neglected operas, this recording is based on a production that opened at the Hagen Theatre, Germany, in 1995, the first revival of Das Himmelskleid (The Garment of Heaven) since its Munich premiere in 1927 under Knappertsbusch. Wolf-Ferrari, remembered better today for his ten comic operas than his three serious ones, thought it his masterpiece, but perhaps he was forgetting his own theory: ‘anyone who admires Wagner does not imitate him’. Das Himmelskleid contains some ravishing music, but there is hardly a trace of the Italianate lightness that characterises so much of the composer’s output. On disc, at least, the work seems to lack real drama.

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There is a touch of Turandot about the plot: Wolf-Ferrari’s Princess sets her suitors the task of acquiring the garments of the Wind, Moon and Sun before they can marry her. Angelina Ruzzafante, her soprano fresh and glowing but authoritative, is excellent in the role, and though Sibrand Basa’s Prince is competently sung, he is short on ardour. The strength of the Hagen ensemble is revealed right down to the choruses of Air Spirits, Moon-Maidens and Children of the Sun, and Gerhard Markson conducts with a feeling for the idiom. John Allison