The Marriage of Figaro
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte
Based on French comedy of same name
by Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais
Act I – A room in the castle of Count Almaviva
The day of their wedding, Figaro, the valet of the Count, and Susanna, the maid of the Countess, are measuring their future bedroom (Cinque, dieci). Susanna complains that the room is too close to the Count’s quarters, especially as he has recently been flirting with her. Figaro vows to protect Susanna from such indecent behavior.
Dr. Bartolo and Marcellina demand that Figaro either pay Marcellina for a debt he owes her, or, as he has agreed, marry her. Bartolo wants revenge on Figaro, as Figaro arranged the elopement of the Count and the Countess, whom Bartolo had hoped to marry.
Cherubino, the Count’s page, dashes in. He explains that the Count discovered him with Barbarina, the daughter of the gardener. Cherubino confesses that he is in love with the Countess as well as every other woman in the palace (Non so più). Cherubino hides when he hears the count approaching. Thinking that he is alone with Susanna, the Count flirts with her until he is interrupted by Don Basilio, the music teacher. The Count also hides. Basilio gossips about the affairs in the castle including Cherubino’s infatuation with the Countess. The Count becomes angry and reveals himself, discovering Cherubino in the process. Aware that the boy has overheard his own indiscretions, he vents his anger on Cherubino by forcing him into the army. Figaro arrives and asks the Count to give Susanna her wedding veil as a symbol of purity. The Count says he would prefer to postpone the ceremony until he can celebrate the occasion appropriately. Both Figaro and Susanna try to persuade the Count to allow Cherubino to stay. Figaro then tells Cherubino about the rigors of military life (Non più andrai).
Act II— In the bedroom of the Countess
The Countess mourns her husband’s lack of interest towards her (Porgi, amor). Susanna and Figaro tell the Countess that the Count is trying to seduce Susanna. They devise a plan in which the Count will be given a note that says that the Countess is having an affair. While the Count is investigating, Figaro and Susanna will be married quickly. At the same time, they will disguise Cherubino as Susanna and will arrange a secret meeting with the Count.
Cherubino arrives and begins trying on his disguise. He sings Voi che sapete, a love song to the Countess. The Count arrives and Cherubino and Susanna both hide. The Count is suspicious and upon hearing a noise, the Count demands to know who is hiding in the dressing room. Cherubino jumps out of the window leaving Susanna. The Count demands that the door be opened, and to his surprise, Susanna calmly enters the room. Finding no one else, the Count begs for forgiveness. The gardener bursts in complaining that someone has just jumped out of the window onto the flowers. In the meantime, Marcellina enters with Dr. Bartolo and Basilio demanding justice.
Act III—A hall in the castle
As the Count investigates the debt owed by Figaro to Marcellina, Susanna lets the Count know that she is prepared to meet him later that evening if he will give her the dowry he has promised. With the dowry, Susanna will be able to pay off Marcellina and marry Figaro. The Count becomes infuriated that his servants will enjoy a happiness that he will not.
Figaro, Marcellina and Dr. Bartolo join the Count and his notary, Don Curzio, for the judgement. Figaro protests that he needs the consent of his parents, from whom he was stolen as an infant. Marcellina realizes that Figaro is her long lost son by Dr. Bartolo; the estranged mother and son embrace. They decide the wedding will be a double one; Marcellina will marry Dr. Bartolo and Figaro will marry Susanna.
Susanna greets the heartbroken Countess to tell her of the outcome of Figaro’s case. The women compose a letter for the Count to catch him in his infidelity (Sull’ aria). The Count enters, still wanting to punish Cherubino, Barbarina pleads that instead, Cherubino be made her husband; the Count agrees.
Figaro enters and the wedding march begins. At the wedding celebration, Susanna passes the note to the Count as he promises a splendid evening.
Act IV—The garden of the castle
Through a misunderstanding, Figaro thinks that Susanna sent the Count the love letter on her behalf. Planning his revenge, Figaro returns with Bartolo and Basilio as witnesses to his wife’s infidelity. He defends his jealousy and insists men should not trust women.
Susanna and the Countess have switched clothing and enter with Marcellina. Susanna, aware that Figaro is listening, sings about her approaching happiness with her lover. The Countess (now disguised as Susanna) awaits her planned tryst with the Count as he enters and promptly begins seducing “Susanna.” The real Susanna (disguised as the Countess) is confronted by Figaro who tells her that the Count is with his Susanna. She asks Figaro to be quiet, but forgets to disguise her voice. The truth begins to dawn on Figaro who then pleads passionate love to the “Countess”. A furious Susanna slaps Figaro, who admits that he knew she was in disguise. Continuing the prank, Figaro and the “Countess” loudly confess their love. The Count rushes in with the crowd following behind him to investigate the ruckus. The Count denounces his faithless wife. The court begs the Count to forgive her, but he refuses until the real Countess reveals herself. The Count realizes that he has fallen prey to a prank and begs forgiveness. The Countess forgives him and all celebrate the end of a crazy day.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria on January 27, 1756 to Leopold Mozart and Anna Maria Pertl. Leopold was a successful composer, violinist and assistant concertmaster at the Salzburg court. Wolfgang began composing minuets at the age of 5 and symphonies at 9. When he was 6, he and his older sister, Maria Anna ( “Nannerl”), performed a series of concerts for European royal courts in major European cities. Both children played the keyboard, but Wolfgang became a violin virtuoso (highly skilled) as well.
From 1762-66, the Mozart children toured Europe and played for the courts in Vienna and Versailles as well as audiences in Paris and London. As if this was not enough, young Mozart also began publishing his first works in 1764 – pretty good for an 8 year old. His first opera, MITRIDATE, RE DI PONTO, was commissioned in 1770 at the age of 14. After touring France with his mother, Mozart returned to Salzburg as the court organist and continued to add to his already prodigious composition catalog. His success with the opera THE ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO in 1782 garnered the attention of Emperor Joseph II who hired him as his court composer. That same year, Mozart married Constanze Weber. Four years later came the opera THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO (1786) to modest success – this was the first of his collaborations with Lorenzo da Ponte (followed by DON GIOVANNI and COSÌ FAN TUTTE).
Wolfgang’s fame began to disappear after FIGARO. He sank into debt and was assisted by a fellow Freemason, Michael Puchberg. The Mozarts’ finances continued to plague them although Wolfgang completed his last three symphonies (E flat, G minor and the Jupiter in C) in less than 7 weeks during the summer of 1788.
Wolfgang died on December 5, 1791. There has been much speculation about the circumstances and cause of his death. Mozart was buried in an unmarked grave at the cemetery of Saint Marx, a Viennese suburb.
Wolfgang excelled in every form in which he composed. Along with Haydn, Mozart perfected the grand forms of symphony, opera, string quartets, and concertos that marked the classical period in music. In his operas, Mozart’s uncanny psychological insight is unique in musical history and his music influenced the next generation of composers, most notably Ludwig von Beethoven. His compositions continue to this day to exert a particular fascination for musicians and music lovers alike.
The term Opera Buffa refers to comic opera that began to flourish in Italy in the mid 18th century. The comedy focuses on human quirks for the humor. In the 1700s, this became popular because the comedy targeted both aristocratic and common society. Mozart’s opera buffas came to be known for a certain level of silliness.