Cold and rainy England and Scotland exerted what now seems a surprisingly strong pull on Italian opera composers of the first part of the 19th century. Gaetano Donizetti alone had a string of four operas about the Tudors, starting with Elisabetta al castello di Kenilworth and quickly followed by Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda and finally Roberto Devereux.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari is one of those composers who, like Leoncavallo and Mascagni, are pretty much mostly known for a single one-act opera. Wolf-Ferrari’s operas were phenomenally popular at the time, in the decade or so before WW1, but Il segreto di Susanna, which debuted in Munich in 1909, is the only one that still has regular outings and it seems to have been rediscovered in the past few years.  The overture can appear as a stand-alone piece, and the aria “O gioia la nube leggera” is, or at least was, a not uncommon recital piece.

Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880) is primarily represented in opera’s “standard repertory” by Les contes d’Hoffmann, but he made his name in operetta (opérette), a form which came into its own in mid-19th century Paris in large part due to Offenbach’s own contributions. Dating from 1873, Pomme d’Api is a one-act comic operetta from the latter part of his career, an intimate domestic rom-com for soprano, baritone and tenor.

Gaetano Donizetti’s Rita dates from between 1839 and 1841 at a time when the composer was in Paris. Still unperformed at the time of his death in 1848, Rita finally premiered in May 1860 at the Opéra-Comique. It remained relatively obscure, but has been rediscovered and is increasingly performed, with several new productions in 2020 alone, including this one in a new arrangement for chamber ensemble by music director Marco Iannelli.