In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • The Marriage of Figaro and The Rules of the Game
  • Jefferson Hunter (bio)

The Marriage of Figaro seen at New York City's Metropolitan Opera in September, 2014, opening the Met season, was a new production directed by Richard Eyre. That this production took stylistic cues from Jean Renoir's 1939 film The Rules of the Game was acknowledged in the program note printed in the Met's season brochure and confirmed, if obliquely, by Eyre himself: "This is about desire, about attraction, and about the dividing line between love and lust. So I wanted [the opera] to move to a period that was enormously sexually charged, and that to me is the late 1920s, early 1930s …" In fact, The Rules of the Game is less sexually charged than Eyre's production, having nothing to match the opera's nearly topless maidservant skittering across the stage during the overture, with a dressing-gown-clad Count Almaviva smirking in the background. Nevertheless, other touches, more genuinely Renoiresque, did mark Eyre's staging.

Costumes, for instance. In the first act, once out of his dressing gown, Almaviva sports a double-breasted blue blazer and white trousers—country-house wear similar to that adopted by Renoir's Marquis de La Cheyniest for casual mornings at La Colinière, his estate in the Sologne. Later in the opera Almaviva dons hunting clothes and for the evening festivities black tie, again like the Marquis. Cherubino is nattily attired in a vanilla-ice-cream-colored Palm Beach suit and straw hat, until, after being dispatched to military glory by Figaro in "Non più andrai," he switches to 1930s khaki complete with bandolier and képi. The Countess changes from negligée into a spectacular 1930s evening gown, black-and-white and long-sleeved, accessorized by dangly [End Page 221] diamond earrings, while the other women of the opera are dressed in flowing mid-calf-length floral prints; they all wear hats. The right makeup seemed important to them. While Bartolo blusters his way through the revenge aria "La vendetta," his apparently bored partner Marcellina pulls a mirror out of her purse and touches up her lipstick. "L'argent fait tout," Marcellina remarks in the following recitative, and the sense of moneyed display, of the 1930s chic which Coco Chanel created in her couture for the Renoir film, is carried right through the Met production.

Also in the season brochure Eyre was quoted on the blocking he wanted: "I think audiences should look for a kind of fluency in the production that matches the music … The production moves—it has a sort of constant energy. We have corridors that lead from the Countess's bedroom to the large hall where the wedding is going to take place … I want to be able to go from one location to another completely fluently." Some of that fluency was provided by the Met's revolving stage, which even during the overture presented, as on a lazy Susan, views of different characters in different compartments of the set. Figaro busies himself with measurements, Susanna solicitously tucks the Countess into her lonely bed, Antonio takes a break from tending his flowers, and, in Upstairs Downstairs or Downton Abbey fashion, maids and footmen tidy the dining room while the Count sips espresso. Fairly unexciting views, perhaps, but then there was that maid en déshabillé dashing away from the Count's embrace with all the excitement one could wish, and similarly up-tempo activities follow later in the opera. For "Giovani liete" toward the end of Act I, praising the Count for abjuring the droit du seigneur, the chorus first gathers into a fixed semi-circle, then for the repeat is sent in brisk procession past Susanna and Figaro, throwing handfuls of rose petals.

All the energy of the production, the insistence on rapid movement between servants' and masters' domains, is very much like what one sees in The Rules of the Game. There, with a famously moving camera, the cinematic equivalent of a revolving stage, Renoir tracks and pans [End Page 222] seemingly at will, following his personages up and down staircases, through corridors, across the wood during the hunting scene, and...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 221-238
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.