Then courts of kings were held in high renown, Ere made the common brothels of the town. There, virgins honourable vows received, But chaste as maids in monasteries lived. The king himself, to nuptial ties a slave, No bad example to his poets gave: And they, not bad, but in a vicious age, Had not, to please the prince, debauch’d the stage.
John Dryden, “The Wife of Bath her Tale”

Monday, March 7, 2011

Le Nozze di Beaumarchais e la Nobilità

So apparently I haven't really listened to Le Nozze di Figaro in some time.  Suddenly I'm listening to it as a play from its time - and there is such a lot going on.  I keep thinking about it with reference to Pamela, for some reason - although Susanna is definitely no Pamela, nor is Almaviva nearly so inept as Mr B.  And, well, set in Spain, based on a play written by a Frenchman, turned into an opera sung in Italian by a very international Italian and an Austrian... not a lot of Puritan overtones going on there.

But the most fascinating thing, I'm finding, is the multiplicity of ideas of 'nobleman' are in play here. No wonder the poor Count spends so much of the opera cranky - every time someone addresses him they evoke a different man, a different image of the nobility whom he represents. And, at this crucial moment in history, the role of that nobility is very much in flux - which image is to win out? what is its role?  Just what does 'wife' mean to him?  What does it mean to him to be lord of his estate? of the castle? Master of this or that servant?

And just what is Cherubino up to? honestly?

Maybe I ought to read Beaumarchais again. I could even read him in French now.

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