Opera Matinee: Nino Rota's The Italian Straw Hat
This afternoon sees 'Godfather' composer Nino Rota in lighter vein with a delightful comic opera recorded last year at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples.
This afternoon sees 'Godfather' composer Nino Rota in lighter vein with a delightful comic opera recorded last year at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples. Rota composed this opera, one of ten, in 1945 but it was not produced until ten years later - it's gone on in Italy to be one of best-loved of 20th century operas
Set in a madcap Paris, Il Cappello di Paglia di Firenze (usually translated as "The Italian Straw Hat") has been described as an extended chase sequence: groom-to-be Fadinard chases around Paris on the day of his wedding day desperately searching for a replacement straw hat after his horse has eaten his. This being an Italian opera buffa, the plot becomes ever more absurd as misunderstandings and mishaps inevitably accrue.
Presented by Penny Gore
Rota : Il Cappello di Paglia di Firenze
Fadinard, a bridegroom ..... Piero Adaini, tenor
Elena, Fadinard's bride ..... Zuzana Marková, soprano
Nonancourt, Elena's father ..... Gianluca Buratto, bass
La Baronessa di Champigny ..... Anna Malavasi, mezzo
Beaupertuis ..... Bruno de Simone, baritone
Anaide, Beaupertuis' wife ..... Anna Maria Sarra, soprano
Emilio, Anaide's lover ..... Dario Giorgelè, baritone
Vézinet, Elena's uncle ..... Marco Miglietta, tenor
Teatro San Carlo Chorus & Orchestra
Valerio Galli, conductor
On the day of Fadinard’s wedding, his valet Felice greets Vézinet, the deaf, elderly uncle of the bride-to-be. He has brought a hatbox as a gift. Fadinard also comes in and tells a curious story. While he was coming home in his coach, the horse ate a straw hat handing from a tree branch. The cries of its owner and of the military officer who was accompanying her scared the horse, who galloped away and did not give Fadinard a chance to make amends. The deaf Vézinet did not understand anything that was said; he leaves. Fadinard is joyfully contemplating his upcoming wedding when Anaide, the owner of the hat, and he companion, Emilio, come in. They want to be reimbursed for the damage. Fadinard sends Felice to find a hat that is the same as the one that the horse destroyed. When he hears that some-one is coming, he quickly hides Anaide and Emilio. It is his future father-in-law Nonancourt, who is with his fiancé Elena. Fadinard and Elena say tender things to each other. From the street one hears the voices of the guests. Fadinard sends Elena and her father to greet them and he then tries to get rid of Anaide and Emilio. Felice has not found the right hat. Anaide is desperate. She cannot return home without that hat which her very jealous husband saw her wearing when she left the house that morning. Fadinard’s objections come to naught. He is expected at the wedding ceremony. Emilio threatens a duel if he does not get Anaide a new hat that is the same as the one that the horse ruined.
A milliner tries to stop the gossiping of her trainees. Fadinard comes into the workshop. The woman tells him that she sold an identical hat to the Baroness of Champigny.
The Baroness has organized a party in honour of the violinist Minardi. Fadinard comes in. In the meantime he went through with his wedding ceremony. Intimidated by the aristocratic atmosphere he asks how he might ask for the baroness’s hat. He is greeted with great respect by the hostess who in her turn thinks that she is talking to the great violinist, who is also known for his extravagant ways. He decides to pretend to be the musician. When he asks for her hat, she does not bat an eyelid and much amused agrees to his request. Fadinard is pleased thinking that in a few minutes he will be able to join his own guests at the nuptial banquet. But he sees to his horror Nonancourt leave the dining room. He followed him with the guests thinking that they had come to the restaurant. Having entered the dining room through the kitchens they gave themselves to copious eating and drinking. When the Baroness comes back with a black hat, Fadinard says that he does not want that one, but a Florentine straw hat. The baffled Baroness reveals that she gave that one to her goddaughter Madame Baupertuis. Things get even more confused when Fadinard’s friends come into the reception room and come to a peak when the true Maestro Minardi makes his entrance. Fadinard manages to slip away dragging with him Elena and the guests before the arrival of the police.
Monsieur Beaupertuis is uneasy. He thinks that his wife has betrayed him. She went out that morning to visit a cousin and has not come back. Fadinard enters and asks to speak to the lady of the house. Nonancourt and Vézinet come in thinking that this is the couples’ new home. Beaupertuis unsuccessfully tries to stop Fadinard who is running about the house looking for the hat. Finally the women of the nuptial party enter with Elena to what they think will be the bridal chamber. The misunderstandings accumulate, and Fadinard decides to explain to Baupertuis whey he is looking for his wife’s hat. But from the story, Baupertuis understands that the officer’s lover is his wife and that the hat that the horse ate that morning is hers. In the general confusion, Fadinard leaves to run home to save Anaide from the vendetta of Beaupertuis who is following him with a pistol.
That night the wedding guests tired and disoriented from all the day’s mishaps drag themselves back to Fadinard’s house.
The changing of the guard takes place as a violent storm kicks up. The guests arrive outside Fadinard’s house. Felice does not let them in because there is a lady. A very angry Nonancourt orders the servant to take away all the wedding gifts. Elena, however, loves her husband and does not intend to leave him. Fadinard comes in panting. While Nonancourt is about to take away the packages with the gifts, Fadinard tries to take away the hatbox. Uncle Vézinet is worried that its contents will be damaged - it is an expensive Florentine straw hat! While Fadinard, crazy with joy, embraces everyone, Nonancourt takes the hat out of the box. Fadinard goes in to free Anaide. The soldiers come back from their rounds, and meeting Nonancourt and the guests full of packages, they take them to be thieves and bring them to prison. Fadinard comes out of the house with Emilio and Anaide and opens the hatbox. He is amazed to find it empty and not to see his wife, father-in-law and the other guests. When a soldier explains what has happened, Emilio enters in the guard’s post to recover the hat. But now Beaupertuis arrives. Fadinard has Anaide put on a military overcoat and hide in the sentry box. Emilio throws the hat out the window, but it gets stuck on a lamppost. Beaupertuis is furiously looking for his wife, while Emilio and Fadinard do their best to hide the woman and recover the hat. They are successful but the lamppost falls down.
All the noise attracts the guards and neighbours. Taking advantage of the upheaval about the hat, Anaide confronts Beaupertuis with a dignified attitude that it is she who is the offended one. She scolds him for running about town and not taking care of her. Nonancourt, who got the truth from Felice, praises Fadinard for the nobility of his spirit. The caporal frees the guests. A humbled Beaupertuis asks his wife’s pardon. Everyone is overjoyed about the happy end to the day: everyone can now go home and the bride and groom - finally - can go off to their love nest.