(Previous section here.)
Why refrigerators, anyway? The pattern seems to be (domestically-themed) boxes, toy houses, confined spaces, and cold. Or cold contrasted to warm – we get warmth in the form of the deer’s blood that Diana’s maidens smudge about the place, in the form of hell, behind the fridge, and in Diana’s antagonist, Cupid, who is costumed in bright red and orange and yellow. And bodies on gurneys in morgues, as in Act V, are certainly cold – except when they are revealed not to be dead after all.
Diana is associated with coldness – she first appears in the freezer box. By herself, in the freezer box, without even some peas or a microwave burrito for company. (Then again, this is, after all, a French refrigerator. Perhaps the French do not do microwave burritos.) The deer sacrifices emphasize blood, which is (one assumes) warm. She gets placated with the sacrifice of life, love, blood, etc. And in the end, Cupid, revealed in the prologue as her antagonist, is hanged. Love gets strung up – maybe despite bringing the two lovers together, Diana has won after all? Or Phaedre’s love and Phaedra herself were sacrificed in order to bring the young couple together. Certainly the ending doesn’t feel unreservedly happy. (Some of the dancers are wearing black mourning veils, after all.)
The fridge theme does not bother me, I think, because it can be connected with some of the more serious themes in the opera, but at the same time, there’s something silly and whimsical about it too. In the prologue we literally have people bringing out broccoli for trees, and a spinach leaf draped over a rolled-up tube of something or other as a grassy knoll – it’s very cute. And Rameau’s music certainly has its playful moments – indeed, I’d say that a production of Rameau that failed to be at least a little bit playful would feel lacking. I already mentioned the obligatory “nightingale!” aria; in general, this music feels as if you are not meant to take it too seriously.