Il cappello di paglia di Firenze (The Florentine Straw Hat)
Piotr Buszewski, Friedemann Jahnig, Ivan Oreščanin; Graz Opera Chorus; Graz Philharmonic/Daniele Squeo
Capriccio C5466 107:16 mins (2 discs)
While the most recent Italian opera to find a regular place in the international repertoire is Turandot, a few post-Puccini works have made at least some impression. Best known for his huge and distinguished output of film music, Nino Rota (1911-79) is responsible for one of them.
Based on a classic French farce (1851) by Eugène Labiche and Marc-Michel, Il cappello di paglia di Firenze (The Florentine Straw Hat) was premiered at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo in 1955; in the intervening decades it has enjoyed many productions in Italy plus a handful elsewhere. It certainly deserves to. Though the plot is featherlight, Rota’s score, influenced by Poulenc and (much further back) Rossini, is delightful, a box of clever musical tricks that never runs short of ideas. Set in Paris, the farce shows young Fadinard on his wedding day forced to hare around the city with other guests in tow, desperately trying to locate a replacement for a straw hat eaten by a horse whose loss will get poor compromised Anaide into serious trouble with her husband. It is a madcap dramatic idea, and – if you like – an example of the higher nonsense; but a total charmer when performed as well as here.
This 2021 recording stems from Graz, with all participants matching the style of the piece to a nicety. Light tenor Piotr Buszewski leads as the half-crazed Fadinard, with conductor Daniele Squeo drawing an excellent performance from a large cast and his local forces.