The Met in Wartime
Students will enjoy starting the class with an open discussion of the Met performance. What did they like? What didn’t they? Did anything surprise them? What would they like to see or hear again? What would they have done differently? This discussion will offer students an opportunity to review the notes on their My Highs & Lows sheet, as well as their thoughts about the particular stagecraft of the Met production—in short, to see themselves as La Fille du Régiment experts.
At various moments in its lifetime, La Fille has been used to rally sentiment in support of warring nations. The current production comes as a war continues in the Middle East. This presents an unusual context for the opera’s light-hearted treatment of military life, as well as an opportunity for students to consider relationships between life and art.
In this context, the post-viewing classroom discussion might continue with a simple, provocative question: Is La Fille du Régiment patriotic or unpatriotic in its attitude toward soldiers and war? As the discussion progresses, students might consider such issues as:
the opera’s portrayal of military life
the opera’s portrayal of soldiers’ concerns and preoccupations
the plausibility of Marie’s role as a sort of regimental mascot—and the changing role of women in the military
signs of any particular attitude toward war embodied in the Metropolitan Opera’s staging of La Fille.
As the discussion continues, encourage students to develop their own criteria for evaluating the appropriateness of a work of art involving war. Should criticism of war be held off until peacetime? Are displays of heroism important expressions of support for combat troops—or are they wartime propaganda, manipulating the public? How might such criteria apply to other works of art, including novels and films familiar to your students?
For follow-up, students can write an op-ed piece drawing on the ideas raised during their classroom discussion and on their new expertise. The topic: Should the Met’s Live in HD production of La Fille du Régiment be broadcast to U.S. troops fighting overseas?