I Fagiolini is a British vocal ensemble specializing in Renaissance and contemporary music. Here’s its director, Robert Hollingworth, on the name:
I Fagiolini’s name has become a modern myth, with bizarre explanations for it offered worldwide wherever I Fagiolini has performed or its recordings been reviewed. [The ellipsis here is out of reach for me.] Here is the unexpurgated truth.
By the time I Fagiolini gave its first concert in 1986, the revival in interest and period playing styles of early music was well under way. At New College, Oxford (the group’s home), early music was known as ‘beany’ music because most of the musicians that seemed to be interested in it (both amateur and professional) seemed to have an alternative lifestyle of knitted yoghurt and wholefood pullovers, living on a diet of nothing but pulses and beans. [The group has a definitely antic side.] Stuck for a name at short notice, countertenor Richard Wyn Roberts proposed ‘the beans’; Robert Hollingworth suggested translating this into Italian as the first concert involved Monteverdi [eventually the group supplied the music for John La Bouchardière’s production and film The Full Monteverdi — yes, a play on The Full Monty] and it sounded nicer like that. This worked well until I Fagiolini first went to Italy and discovered the various slang connotations it has there. We don’t go to Italy much.
Different dictionaries tell you that fagiolini are ‘string beans’, ‘French beans’ or ‘little beans’. The last was the one intended.
This is amazingly unhelpful. Other sources refer to the “salacious slang connotations” and the “unfortunate slang connotations (both digestive and anatomical)” of the name, and elsewhere Hollingworth coyly referred to its slang connotations in Italian as “best not propagated here”.