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The Sunday Opera: Two by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari - "Das Himmelskleid" and "Il Segreto di Susanna"

It’s time for another fairytale on this week’s Sunday Opera (5/14 3:00 p.m.); a fairytale opera by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari that disappeared shortly after its premier, and it has a happy ending!

The opera is “Das Himmelskleid” (“The Garment of Heaven”), and it’s based on Charles Perrault’s story “Donkeyskin” which is the story of a spoiled princess who must lose everything before she realizes her self-worth.

The Princess (Angelina Ruzzafante) has led a life of ease and wealth. A Beggar (Sergio Gomez) was so taken with her father’s relationship and care of his subjects that he gifts the king a magical gold statue of a donkey which ensures that the kingdom will be wealthy and secure.

When the king dies, the Princess comes to power, and she believes that she will only be happy if she owns the clothing of the wind, moon, and sun, and she dismisses every prince from the neighboring kingdoms who seeks her hand without them. Finally, one prince (Sibrand Basa) arrives, and he and the Princess immediately fall in love; however, he arrives with only a flower, and the princess sends him off to the realms of the wind, moon, and sun to get the garments.

The Princess curses her wealth and the golden donkey that she believes is responsible for her unhappiness, and she smashes the golden statue. With that, the magic is destroyed, and the kingdom falls into ruin. The Princess is then forced out of the kingdom wearing only the skin of a donkey.

The opera follows the Princess and the Prince on their travels until they are once again reunited for our happy ending.

The opera comes from the Theater Hagen, the group that rescued it from obscurity and features the Opera Chorus and Augmented Chorus of the Theater Hagen as well as the Hagen Philharmonic Orchestra. Our conductor is Gerhard Markson.

…But wait. There’s more – more music of Wolf-Ferrari, that is. From one of his most obscure works, we turn to what is arguably the most performed one: “Il Segretto di Susanna.” Susanna (Judith Howarth) has a secret that is driving her husband, Gil (Angel Ondena), mad, but it’s not a secret lover as he expects, and there’s a happy ending here as well. “Il Segreto di Susanna” is conducted by Friedrich Haider who is leading the Oviedo Filarmonia.

Michael is program host and host of the WWFM Sunday Opera, Sundays at 3 pm, and co-host of The Dress Circle, Sundays at 7 pm.
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