"I Quatro Rusteghi" is a delightful comic opera, generally considered the greatest stage work of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (1876-1948). Like several other of his operas, this one has a libretto drawn from a play by 18th century dramatist Carlo Goldoni. The plot focuses on 2 old-fashioned middle-class Venetian fathers - the title translates roughly as "The 4 Boors" (though in England it was first produced as "The School for Fathers") - who plan a pre-arranged marriage between their offspring; their wives arrange for a secret meeting between the young people so that they can find out if they like each other. What gives the piece its great charm is the gracefulness of its tunes, the resourcefulness of its musical invention & orchestration, and the slight shadow of wistfulness, even melancholy, underneath the surface bustle of the sunlit intrigues. The post-"Falstaff" idiom falls easily & gratefully on the listener's ears & Wolf-Ferrari's sense of character & stage timing is impeccable. There are 3 CD recordings available. This 1953 (radio) studio recording remains my personal favorite: some individual roles may be better taken elsewhere, & other orchestras may have played the score with more consistent polish, but this performance radiates an irresistible zest. Beautifully conducted by Alfredo Simonetto, in solid, clean, up close mono sound, this version has only one really weak performance & many superb ones, starting with bass Fernando Corena's Lunardo & mezzo Agnese Dubbini's thoroughly outrageous Margarita. It comes with a complete Italian libretto & a very general English synopsis. The other 2 versions are both live performances from the 1960s, & in fact share 1 singer in a lead role & 2 in supporting roles (different ones in each performance). First, Teatro La Fenice, Venice, 1967 (Mondo Musica MFOH 10701): lively, well-sung, notably by tenor Ugo Benelli (Filipeto); broadcast-quality stereo, except in the prelude & interlude in Act I, which are dim & marred by loud backstage noise. Detailed English synopsis, no libretto. Second, Turin, 1969 (Gala GL 100.553): in tolerable if slightly muffled mono, this performance boasts 3 "names" - soprano Magda Olivero (Felice), mezzo Fedora Barbieri (Margarita) & bass Nicola Rossi-Lemeni (Lunardo), tho' only Barbieri strikes me as ideal casting. No synopsis or libretto. My advice: go for this Warner Fonit performance.