The 62nd season of opera productions at Wexford opened in fine style with Il Capello di Paglia di Firenze, a fizzy light hearted comedy from the 20th century Italian composer, Nino Rota, better known for his film scores than grand operatic works.
The farcical plot hinges on the frantic road trip of a desperate groom followed by his unsuspecting wedding entourage in the hunt for a very particular style of straw hat which he must be replace exactly to avert a duel and be reunited with his bride. This was great fun, a stylish production delivered with panache by the large cast, chorus and orchestra.
What were the elements that added to the sugar rush of this entertaining theatrical confection.
The Music: The music isn't so much in the style of the his 20th century film music but more retrospective, a sort of mélange of Rossini and Verdi. Throughout, the Spanish conductor, an assertive Sergio Alapont set an energetic bouncy pace that didn't let up . The orchestra led by Fionnuala Hunt responded with verve, the strings veering from strident heavy vamping rhythms to lush sweeter sonorities and there was some lovely solo work from solo wind timbres.
The Cast: Among the large cast, there was a native Florentine tenor with Filippo Adami replacing Davide Giusti originally cast. While all made the most of the comic element of the roles, two performances stood out for me . Claudia Boyle as Elena looked and sounded stunning . Filippo Fontana as jealous husband Beaupertis brought an extra edge to the madcap proceedings .
The chorus: The show was stolen by the Ladies Chorus. The catchy Milliners' chorus at the opening of Act Two was the highlight of the show with the pizzicato string bass accompaninent perfectly complimenting the on stage sewing motions .
The Costumes. Director Andrea Cigni sets the action in 1950's Paris. The bright colourful dresses and morning suits evoked the era of the MGM musical world of Gene Kelly and Audrey Hepburn.
The Set: The set was relatively unsophisticated . The heavily raked stage meant we could see the large cast easily but did give you the feeling that the action was happening on the rooftop . The painted billboards reinforced the Hollywood Musical theme but the staging didn't help to convey the sense of the action moving around to different locations and was for me the least satisfactory aspect of an otherwise sparkling production.
The Horse of Course Finally -that white horse I expected to see galloping across the stage in Maria on my last trip to Wexford in 2011? --- Well, to cap it all. a white horse put his head in for a cameo appearance at the finale.
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