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First Look: Horse Eats Hat

By F. Paul Driscoll

First Look Horse Eats Hat hdl 119
Set designs for Italian Straw Hat by Lorenzo Cutùli
Courtesy Minnesota Opera
First Look Nino Rota lg 119
Prolific composer Nino Rota
Album/Alamy Stock Photo

NINO ROTA'S 1955 OPERA FARCE, The Italian Straw Hat, makes a rare North American appearance this month when Minnesota Opera offers the U.S. premiere of Andrea Cigni’s production, created for the 2013 Wexford Festival. Rota (1911–79) is best known for his more than 150 film scores, which include The Godfather and The Godfather II for Francis Ford Coppola, Luchino Visconti’s Gattopardo and most of Federico Fellini’s movies, beginning with Lo Sceicco Bianco (The White Sheik) in 1952.

Lo Sceicco Bianco is one of several Rota works that the composer quotes in The Italian Straw Hat, which had its world premiere in 1955, at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo. When Italian Straw Hat opened in Wexford, opera news’s Brian Kellow characterized the score as “Rossini synthesized with the manic background scores of the classic Warner Bros. cartoons of the 1940s. The orchestra, with its running tongue-in-cheek commentary on the action and the teasing echoes of works ranging from Pagliacci to the Ride of the Valkyries, is in many ways the star.”

The opera is based on Eugène Labiche and Marc-Antoine-Amédée’s 1851 stage farce Un Chapeau de Paille d’Italie, which centers on Fadinard, a young man whose wedding is delayed because his horse has eaten a straw hat. The Rota opera preserves the rollicking, fast-paced spirit of the original play, casting the manic character of Fadinard as a quasi-Rossinian tenor, to be sung in Minnesota by rising star Andrew Stenson. spacer



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