The operas of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (1876-1948) are still rarely performed. We do not even need to guess at the reason. That it is not because of the quality, is proven by the recording of Sly ovvero La leggenda del dormiente risvegliato (Sly or the legend of the awakened sleeper), released in 2001 on Koch Schwann.
The tragicomic story tells us about a poor poet who, blind drunk, is brought to the palace of the Count of Westmoreland to be made a fool of. He is dressed up in expensive clothes and, as soon as he comes to, he is led to believe that he is the earl and that he has just recovered from a long illness. The Count’s lover Dolly pretends to be his wife but gradually falls in love with him.
“No, io non sono un buffone” (No, I am not a fool) he sings at the end and cuts his wrists with a broken bottle. His beloved Dolly, like Charlotte in Werther, arrives too late. The music is a cross between opera buffa, surrealism and mainly verism, although one should not forget the Wagnerian influences.
There was already a recording of the opera in German (Accanta) with Deborah Polaski, and the Italian original was eagerly awaited. This recording was made live in Barcelona. The lead role is sung by José Carreras, who celebrated his 30th anniversary with it. He is a very moving Sly. His voice sounds very fragile and his performance leaves you in tears.
Sherill Milnes once again proves his reputation as the interpreter of villainous roles, but the greatest praise goes to the Zairean soprano Isabelle Kabatu. Her voice is a little reminiscent of Leontyne Price’s: velvety and slightly shrouded.