viernes, 11 de enero de 2013

Nino Rota’s “Il Cappello Di Paglia Di Firenze” at Angers Nantes Opéra

Suzanne Daumann

It’s Christmas time, it’s goodie time, and this production is a goodie indeed. As seen and heard recently in another production by Angers Nantes Opéra, Smetana’s “Two Widows”, a foreign composer takes over a French comedy, adds his own national flavor, and the result is deliciously sweet and spicy. The work is in itself quite challenging: Nino Rota’s (1911 – 1979) entertaining and spiritual music belongs equally to the 20th century and to Italian opera. Its bel canto is ironically charming and it gallops through the comedy at breakneck tempo. The Orchestre Natinonal des Pays de la Loire, conducted by Giuseppe Grazioli, keeps this tempo and still manages to highlight the many funny and charming details of the score, and the singers are more than up to it as well.The stage direction (Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser) situates the action at its time of origin, in the 1850s. These days, one has to loudly applaud a stage and costume design that has no other pretensions than to serve the music. Christian Fenouillat has that kind of courage: totally biedermeier interiors, a Paris street that looks more Parisian than Paris itself, a hatter’s workshop full of shelves and boxes, like a doll’s house – all of this is really beautiful and that is quite enough. As to Agostino Cavalca’s costumes, they take up the 19th century theme, with crinolines, top hats and cork screw locks, but his characters are not so very dignified: they all wear a little upturned nose, absurd and quite touching, and the gentlemen are literally stuffed into importance.  Along with absurd costumes and noses, the whole cast are full of musical and dramatic energy. Philippe Talbot, tenor, is an admirable Fadinard: he has a clear, ample, generous voice, made for this kind of repertoire, one imagines him in Rossini or Offenbach as well, and he has a great sense of comedy, he gets hit, rolls on the ground, gets up, sings a love duet in passing and is off again on his quest for a straw hat… So Fadinard is going to get married. The bride’s uncle, Vézinet (Beau Palmer, so funny that his warm baritone goes almost unnoticed), turns up at his place, with a present for the young lady.  He has brought a straw hat, which Fadinard’s servant takes away at once – and thus sets the story in motion: Fadinard comes home and tells his uncle how his horse just ate up a lady’s straw hat. Enter the lady in question, Anaide, and her lover, Emilio. The two of them are in a state, because without her straw hat, Anaide cannot go home, her suspicious husband would ask uncomfortable questions. Fadinard sends his servant to buy a new hat, and the lovers hide, because now the wedding guests arrive, and first of all Fadinard’s bride, Elena, Hendrickje van Kerckhove, silvery soprano innocence, very much the Italian opera heroine. Her father, the terrible Nonancourt who declares every five minutes that everything is finished, accompanies her. Peter Kalman, baritone both smooth and strong, interprets him with authority and ridicule. On their heels arrive the marriage party, who will make sure of a generous level of confusion wherever they go. When Fadinard’s manservant returns empty-handed, Emilio menaces Fadinard with terrible things like a duel or sacking his apartment. So Fadinard decides to hunt up an Italian straw-hat himself.He runs first to the hatter’s shop where he learns that the last Italian straw-hat has been sold to the Baroness of Champigny. Fadinard goes to see this lady.
The Baroness is just preparing a dinner in honour of the famous Italian violinist Minardi. Elena Zilio, mezzo-soprano and grand lady with a deep rich voice, incarnates this groupie of Italy and her artists with verve and a hint of compassion. We sigh with her “Ah yes, Florence, her sunshine, her hats…” and we state laughingly that already Labiche made fun of the housewife between 45 and 55, but there is no time for further reflection, because here is the wedding party again, and confusion is everywhere, while Fadinard runs to Beaupertuis’s place. The old man (Claudio Otelli) is bathing his feet and complaining about his wife’s lateness. She left in the morning to go and see her cousin and still isn’t back. Fadinard doesn’t care. Beaupertuis has a straw hat, or at least his wife has, the Baroness said so, and Fadinard wants this hat right now and begins to turn the house upside down. Meanwhile, Nonancourt and the wedding party have caught up with Fadinard. They are under the influence of the Baroness’s champagne, and, mistaking Beaupertuis’ bedroom for Fadinard’s, undertake to put the bride to bed. We laugh at Noncancourt and Beaupertuis who are fooling around with their shoes, and we feel for the little virgin’s trouble as she comes face to face with the reality of the marital bed. But now Beaupertuis has realized that this hat, which Fadinard is so keen on, is his wife’s and that his wife is none other than the lady who is keeping Fadinard out of his own marital bed. That’s too much and he runs off, murder on his face, and Fadinard after him. In Act 4, everything seems lost:  the wedding party have gotten lost in Paris, and get arrested as thieves, Beaupertuis still wants to kill his wife, Nonancourt once again wants to cancel the marriage and take Elena home… But now, hey presto, uncle Vézinet finds the hat and Fadinard puts it on Elena’s hat. A hat? A hat! You see she has a hat! Beaupertuis sees and has grudgingly to admit that his wife must be innocent since she has a hat, and so he takes her home. She waves goodbye to Emilio and is swept back into the tedium of her daily life and we wonder fleetingly what will become of her, if she will ultimately run of with Emilio or some other officer, but already Fadinard has freed the wedding party from goal, bidden them goodbye and good night, and now the real happy end is here: Fadinard and Elena enter his house and as the curtain falls, we see them as silhouettes in a lighted window (lights: Christophe Forey), and we hope their bed will be just as warm and soft as that light and the slow waltz that ends the opera!" It has been a delightful evening again and delighted high school students cross our way out. To be sure, with such a multi-layered work they are bound to have found some amusement, too. Programming such entertaining pieces is certainly a good way to attract tomorrow’s public. Again, bravo all around!

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