Rota: The Night of a Neurotic; The Two Timid Ones

Giorgio Celenza, Sabrina Cortese, et al; Reate Festival Orchestra/Gabriele Bonolis (Dynamic)

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CD_CDS7830_Rota

Rota
The Night of a Neurotic; The Two Timid Ones
Giorgio Celenza, Sabrina Cortese, Daniele Adriani, Antonio Sapio, Chiara Osella, Carlo Feola; Reate Festival Orchestra/Gabriele Bonolis
Dynamic CDS 7830   98:64 mins (2 discs)

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As Federico Fellini’s composer-collaborator – and writer of magnificent scores for Francis Ford Coppola’s first two Godfather films and more – most people will have heard the music of Nino Rota (1911-1979). Far fewer, however, will be aware that this hugely successful and prolific Milanese also wrote many concert works – and 11 operas.

Best known of these unduly neglected works is the boulevard farce, Il cappello di paglia di Firenze (The Florentine Straw Hat). But the two beautifully crafted comedies forming this energetic double-bill, recorded live at the 2017 Reate Festival, are equally deserving of attention. Just 40 minutes long, The Night of a Neurotic (1959) bursts with the dramma buffo mayhem that ensues when a neurotic is kept awake by fellow hotel guests. The Two Timid Ones (written for radio in 1950), also in one act, invests its hour-long commedia lirica with tender pathos as would-be lovers miss the moment and end up with the wrong partners.

Both operas teem with invention. Warmly engaging with a bitonal edge, there are echoes of Rossini, Puccini, Stravinsky – and verismo, in ardent melody that’s tempered with short, sharp declamatory phrases. Yet the language is entirely Rota’s, with an adroit, Hollywood interweaving of jazzy blues.

The all-but twin casts and Reate Festival Orchestra perform with zeal under conductor Gabriele Bonolis, let down by a somewhat harsh recorded sound.

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Steph Power