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Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari

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Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (born Ermanno Wolf) (Venice, January 12, 1876 – Venice January 21, 1948) was an Italian composer. He is best known for his comic operas, I quattro rusteghi (1906) and Il segreto di Susanna (1909). A number of his works were based on plays by Carlo Goldoni, including Il campiello.

Ferrari was his mother’s maiden-name, which he added to his own surname in 1895. His father was a painter, and sent Ermanno to Rome to study art. From there he went to Munich, and it was while there that he decided to concentrate instead on music, taking lessons from Josef Rheinberger. He wrote his first works in the 1890s.

In 1900, having failed to have two previous efforts published, Wolf-Ferrari saw the first performance of one of his operas, Cenerentola, which was given in Venice. This was a failure at its premiere, although a later performance in Bremen was a success, setting a pattern for his later work, much of which was premiered in Germany and was received a good deal better there than it was in his native Italy. Among these works are Le donne curiose (1903), I quattro rusteghi (1906), and Il segreto di Susanna (1909), all of them comedies, and all of them successful at their German premieres.

With the outbreak of World War I, Wolf-Ferrari moved to Zürich and composed much less, though he still wrote another comedy, Gli amanti sposi (1916). He did not really pick up his rate of output until the 1920s, when he wrote Das Himmelskleid (1925) and Sly (1927), the latter based on William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. In 1939 he became professor of composition at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. In 1946 he moved again to Zürich before returning to Venice.

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