Marnie is a musical-dramatic vision of a troubled character within a flawed society, with both the individual and the social milieu concealing inner turbulence behind sophisticated façades.
Based on a 1961 novel by Winston Graham, the libretto unfolds naturalistically, and the music explores the themes set forth in the source material in a direct and often seductively beautiful manner.
The opera, like the novel, takes place in England in 1959. With a compelling heroine, a startling storyline, and the vast emotional range of the characters, Marnie packs a wallop both on the page and on stage.
Nico Muhly (b. 1981) is one of the most notable composers working today, with a wide-ranging oeuvre encompassing ballet music, orchestral and chamber works, songs, solo piano pieces, film scores, and sacred and secular choral music.
The cast features mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard in the title role opposite baritone Christopher Maltman (her eventual husband, Mark Rutland), joined by countertenor Iestyn Davies (playboy Terry Rutland), soprano Janis Kelly (Mrs. Rutland), and mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves (Marnie’s mother). Robert Spano makes his Met debut on the podium.
Costume designer Arianne Phillips, who also works with artists such as Madonna, Courtney Love and Lenny Kravitz, makes her Met debut with this production.
"I started to think about the movement of jazz in the ’50s" she says, "and how it informed visual art—minimalism and conceptualism. Looking at those jazz album covers, I felt very inspired to work with colour. I wanted the clothes to have a minimalistic quality, and yet I wanted the colour to help move the audience through the story, to use colour as a costume directive on where to focus on the stage. Marnie especially—her palette was very important to me as we follow her through the story.
The costume has to not only inform the story visually for the audience, but also tactfully inform the performer who’s wearing it. Marnie herself has 15 costume changes, which is not that many for a film, but I’ve been told is pretty epic for an opera."