‘The Italian Straw Hat’ at the St. Paul Ordway

While I cannot be called an opera buff I do appreciate the chance to attend one every now and then.  Minnesota is fortunate to have an organization like the MN Opera performing at the Ordway even if their shows come and go so quickly.  Yes, I’m still irked about not getting the chance to see ‘La Bohème’ last year …

After four days of staying in my house waiting out the Polar Vortex I jumped at the chance to head over to St. Paul and catch a performance. The show starts out with the main character Ferdinand describing an unfortunate incident off-stage. While hurrying home in his carriage to check on preparations for his wedding later that day his whip gets entangled in a tree.  While working to untangle himself his horse takes advantage of the break to snack on a straw hat hanging from the tree.  It turns out the hat belongs to a woman canoodling with her soldier lover.  The pair follow Ferdinand home and insist he find another hat just like it so that her husband does not discover the infidelity.

And so the romp begins.  We follow Ferdinand as he rushes around the city (taking a break at the church to exchange his vows) trying to find an identical straw hat so he can return home and be alone with his new wife. Along the way the bridal party from the country follows him from the church to the violin recital of a baroness to the home of her friend and throughout the city to the point when they are so fatigued they wonder when they can stop ‘celebrating’ and return home.

I probably won’t be giving much away to say that after several mistaken identities, misunderstandings, people in the wrong place at the wrong time and even the jailing of the entire wedding party there is a happy ending.  Along the way we meet some amusing characters – the mentally confused uncle, the father-in-law who insists on yelling ‘The Wedding is Off!’ even after the vows are exchanged.  The character who truly steals the show though is La Baroness de Champigny played by Victoria Vargas.  Ferdinand shows up at her house thinking she has a duplicate of the eaten hat.  He is mistaken for a famous violin player plus followed by the wedding party that proceeds to eat the banquet the baroness has put out for her guests.  More hilarity ensues.

This is not to say there aren’t enough plot holes in this story to drive a horse and buggy through.  However, it’s wintertime in Minnesota and we’ve just survived a polar vortex so nothing wrong  with having a bit of fun with this farce.  Opera can get serious again in the spring.

‘The Italian Straw Hat’ runs through March 2.  Above image by the MN Opera.

Nearby places to eat/drink/hang out before and after the show:

Pazzaluna: Pasta and other Italian treats

St. Paul Grill: Hang out at the grill for some serious steak and seafood.  A post-show Brandy Alexander also hits the spot.

Meritage: Fill up on French champagne and oysters

Feed the blogger: Have you seen this opera? What are your thoughts on it and/or opera in general?  Comments welcome.

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