Born in Venice. Baptised as Hermann Friedrich Wolf. His mother, Emilia Ferrari, is Venetian, his father, August Wolf, a German painter who copies paintings from the 15th and 16th centuries in Italy on behalf of Count Friedrich von Schack. Up to the age of 15 Ermanno grows up in Italy.


First private piano lessons in Venice. Shows great talent for drawing.


First training in the visual arts at the “Accademia di Belle Arti” in Rome, and a year later at the private school of painting of Simon Holosy in Munich.


Deeply moved by the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, he breaks off his study of art and passes the entrance examination at the “Royal Academy of Music” in Munich. There he studies under the teacher of counterpoint Joseph Rheinberger. At the age of 18, under the stage name of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, he conducts the world premiere of his “Serenade for Strings” as part of a student concert.


After graduating he temporarily returns to Venice. Intense private study of baroque and classical Italian music. First chamber music compositions in a romantic style. Three opera attempts fail.


Through the mediation of Arrigo Boito, unique encounter with Giuseppe Verdi in Milan.


Conductor of a German choir in Milan. Encounter with the composer and leader of the “Capella Marciana” in Venice, Don Lorenzo Perosi. Composition of choral works: “Otto Chori” (eight a capella choruses) Op. 2, “Talitha Kumi” Op. 3, “La Sulamithe” Op. 4.

Marriage to soprano Clara Kilian. A year later, birth of their only son, Federico.


The premiere of his opera “Cenerentola” at the Teatro La Fenice is a failure. The later German performance of the piece in Bremen (1902) gains respectable success.


With the premiere of the choral-orchestral cantata “La Vita Nuova” Op. 9, (after Dante-Alighieri) in Munich, the name Wolf-Ferrari becomes famous overnight. His individual style, a symbiosis of Italian and German styles of expression is established.

His opera “Le donne curiose” (“The curious women”) premieres with sensational success at the Residenz Theatre in Munich. Thus not only has an artistic revival of the works of the Venetian comedy writer Carlo Goldoni (1707 – 1793) been achieved, but also a fundamental renewal of the Opera Buffa has been established; the reason for Wolf-Ferrari’s immediate world fame. The work immediately begins its triumphal procession around the globe. Stylistically significant is the cultivation of the arioso-parlando in Verdi’s “Falstaff” and the neoclassical texture of the orchestra as an explicit alternative to post-wagnerian pathos and the realistic directness of Verismo.

Twenty-six year old Wolf-Ferrari is appointed director for life of the Conservatory “Liceo Musicale Benedetto Marcello” in Venice – a position which he quits however after seven years.




Gustav Mahler conducts „Die neugierigen Frauen“ („Le donne curiose“) at the K. und K. Hofoperntheater in Vienna.

The premiere of “I Quatro Rusteghi” (“The Four Ruffians”) at the National theatre in Munich under Felix Mottl consolidates the fame of the young composer.


The one-act opera “Il segreto di Susanna”  (“Susanna’s secret”) premieres under Felix Mottl in Munich.

Wolf-Ferrari who has dual citizenship, moves to Germany again, settling in Ottobrun, Krailing, in the outskirts of Munich, but regularly spends the winter months in Italy.


Premiere of “I Gioielli della Madonna” (“The Jewels of the Madonna”) at the Berlin Kurfürstenoper. The style of the opera is close to verismo, yet with its own particular sound. Travels to America.


American premiere of “Le Donne Curiose” under Arturo Toscanini at the Metropolitan Opera, New York.


Ernst von Schuch conducts the premiere of “L’amore medico”  (“Doctor Cupid”) in Dresden.


Lives in Zurich until 1921, then in Zollikon, a village on Lake Zurich.  Bouts of depression due to war and rootlessness as a German-Italian. Creative crisis. Divorces Clara Kilian. For some time turns to drawing, creating arounds 130 nudes. Correspondence with the greatly admired Swiss musicologist Ernst Kurth.


Marriage to Wilhelmine Funck.

Since the end of the First World War his works are subject to ever changing reception and irregular frequency of performances.


“Gli Amanti Sposi”, based on Goldoni, has its premiere at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice and the Semper Opera in Dresden under Fritz Busch.


The premiere of “La Vesta del Cielo”  (“Das Himmelskleid”) under Hans Knappertsbusch receives a cold reception at the National Theatre in Munich. “Sly” (after Shakespeare) excites the audience at La Scala.


Premiere of “La Vedova scaltra” (based on Goldoni) in Rome. Revision (mainly of the recitatives) of Mozart’s “Idomeneo” for the Munich National Theatre.


Two little concertos accompanied by string orchestra with two horns: “Idillio-Concertino” for oboe Op.15, and “Suite Concertino” for bassoon Op.16.


“Il Canzoniere”, an Italian song book (on texts from Tuscan folk poetry) for various voices and piano Op.17.


“Suite Veneziana” for small orchestra. By 1939, three further small orchestral works arise: “Trittico”, “Divertimento” and “Arabeschi”.

Premiere of “Il Campiello” (based on Goldoni) at La Scala under Gino Marinuzzi.


Premiere of “La dama boba” (based upon Lope de Vega) in Milan.

Appointment as professor of composition at the Salzburg Mozarteum. Wolf-Ferrari suffers heavily under Fascism and National Socialism, he himself remains unperturbed by the political systems. Lives withdrawn in Munich and Venice, his works are occasionally performed even during the war.

Chamber music (string quartet and string quintet, among others.)

Incipient correspondence with the young American star violinist Guila Bustabo. From the very beginning the two artists feel spiritually connected.


Violin concerto in D major Op.26  – “Guila Bustabo, in admiration.”  The Bombing of Leipzig and Munich prevents the planned premiere in the autumn of 1943.  Wolf-Ferrari flees to Alt Aussee, in Austria.

His last opera, “Der Kuckuck von Theben” (Gli dei a Tebe) is premiered in Hannover.


Premiere of the Violin Concerto with Guila Bustabo and the Munich Philharmonic under Oswald Kabasta in Munich’s Tonhalle, followed by the French premiere under Willem Mengelberg in Paris.

„Sinfonia Brevis“ Op.28.


Cello Concerto „Invocazione“ Op.31.


Spends postwar time in the house of Swiss friends in Zurich.

“Small concerto for Cor Anglais and string orchestra with two horns“ Op.34. Duet for Viola d’amore and Viola da gamba Op.33.


Dies unexpectedly of a heart attack on January 21 in Venice. He is granted a grave of honour on the cemetery island of San Michele, in his native town.