the marriage of figaro


  • At the urging of the Countess, Susanna enters and gives a false promise to meet the Count later that night in the garden (duet: “Cruel girl, why did you make me wait so long”).

  • Figaro is quite pleased with their new room; Susanna far less so (Duettino: “If the Countess should call you during the night”).

  • [33] Critical discussion Lorenzo Da Ponte wrote a preface to the first published version of the libretto, in which he boldly claimed that he and Mozart had created a new form
    of music drama: In spite … of every effort … to be brief, the opera will not be one of the shortest to have appeared on our stage, for which we hope sufficient excuse will be found in the variety of threads from which the action of this
    play [i.e.

  • After they discuss the plan, Marcellina and the Countess leave, and Susanna teases Figaro by singing a love song to her beloved within Figaro’s hearing (aria: “Oh come, don’t

  • Susanna then takes Cherubino’s place in the closet, vowing to make the Count look foolish (duet: “Open the door, quickly!”).

  • It alludes to interference probably produced by paid hecklers, but praises the work warmly: Mozart’s music was generally admired by connoisseurs already at the first performance,
    if I except only those whose self-love and conceit will not allow them to find merit in anything not written by themselves.

  • The enraged Count draws his sword, promising to kill Cherubino on the spot, but when the closet door is opened, they both find to their astonishment only Susanna (Finale:
    “Come out of there, you ill-born boy!”).

  • [38][39] Johannes Brahms said “In my opinion, each number in Figaro is a miracle; it is totally beyond me how anyone could create anything so perfect; nothing like it was
    ever done again, not even by Beethoven.

  • [13] Joseph II, who, in addition to his empire, was in charge of the Burgtheater,[14] was concerned by the length of the performance and directed his aide Count Rosenberg
    [de] as follows: To prevent the excessive duration of operas, without however prejudicing the fame often sought by opera singers from the repetition of vocal pieces, I deem the enclosed notice to the public (that no piece for more than a single
    voice is to be repeated) to be the most reasonable expedient.

  • She is bothered by its proximity to the Count’s chambers: it seems he has been making advances toward her and plans on exercising his, the purported feudal right of a lord
    to bed a servant girl on her wedding night before her husband can sleep with her.

  • Beaumarchais’s Mariage de Figaro, with its frank treatment of class conflict,[4] was at first banned in Vienna: Emperor Joseph II stated that “since the piece contains much
    that is objectionable, I therefore expect that the Censor shall either reject it altogether, or at any rate have such alterations made in it that he shall be responsible for the performance of this play and for the impression it may make”,
    after which the Austrian Censor duly forbade performing the German version of the play.

  • The Marriage of Figaro came in first out of the 20 operas featured, with the magazine describing the work as being “one of the supreme masterpieces of operatic comedy, whose
    rich sense of humanity shines out of Mozart’s miraculous score”.

  • [43] In his 1991 opera, The Ghosts of Versailles, which includes elements of Beaumarchais’s third Figaro play (La Mère coupable) and in which the main characters of The Marriage
    of Figaro also appear, John Corigliano quotes Mozart’s opera, especially the overture, several times.

  • Figaro, Susanna, and the Countess attempt to discredit Antonio as a chronic drunkard whose constant inebriation makes him unreliable and prone to fantasy, but Antonio brings
    forward a paper which, he says, was dropped by the escaping man.

  • After the song, the Countess, seeing Cherubino’s military commission, notices that the Count was in such a hurry that he forgot to seal it with his signet ring (which would
    be necessary to make it an official document).

  • The Count now begins making earnest love to “Susanna” (really the Countess), and gives her a jeweled ring.

  • He retaliates by trying to compel Figaro legally to marry a woman old enough to be his mother, but it turns out at the last minute that she really is his mother.

  • Cherubino then arrives and, after describing his emerging infatuation with all women, particularly with his “beautiful godmother” the Countess (aria: “I don’t know anymore
    what I am”), asks for Susanna’s aid with the Count.

  • The Count, seeing the ring he had given her, realizes that the supposed Susanna he was trying to seduce was actually his wife.

  • But now, after several performances, one would be subscribing either to the cabal or to tastelessness if one were to maintain that Herr Mozart’s music is anything but a masterpiece
    of art.

  • Figaro is hiding behind a bush and, thinking the song is for the Count, becomes increasingly jealous.

  • At this moment, Susanna re-enters from another room, quickly realizes what’s going on, and hides before anyone can see her (Trio: “Susanna, come out!”).

  • [34] Charles Rosen, in The Classical Style, proposes to take Da Ponte’s words quite seriously, noting the “richness of the ensemble writing”,[35] which carries forward the
    action in a far more dramatic way than recitatives would.

  • [17] The Hungarian poet Ferenc Kazinczy was in the audience for a May performance, and later remembered the powerful impression the work made on him: [Nancy] Storace [see
    below], the beautiful singer, enchanted eye, ear, and soul.

  • – Mozart conducted the orchestra, playing his fortepiano; but the joy which this music causes is so far removed from all sensuality that one cannot speak of it.

  • The young man is ultimately saved from punishment by the entrance of the peasants of the Count’s estate, a preemptive attempt by Figaro to commit the Count to a formal gesture
    symbolizing his promise that Susanna would enter into the marriage unsullied.

  • He plays along with the joke by pretending to be in love with “my lady”, and inviting her to make love right then and there.

  • The count is furious, but is reminded that the page overheard the Count’s advances on Susanna, something that the Count wants to keep from the Countess.

  • The public, however … did not really know on the first day where it stood.

  • Having gratefully given Figaro a job as head of his servant-staff, he is now persistently trying to exercise his right to bed a servant girl on her wedding night – with Figaro’s
    bride-to-be, Susanna, who is the Countess’s maid.

  • She responds to the Countess’s questions by telling her that the Count is not trying to seduce her; he is merely offering her a monetary contract in return for her affection.

  • Figaro mistakes her for the real Countess, and starts to tell her of the Count’s intentions, but he suddenly recognizes his bride in disguise.

  • He has already sent one to the Count (via Basilio) that indicates that the Countess has a rendezvous of her own that evening.

  • [12] Although the total of nine performances was nothing like the frequency of performance of Mozart’s later success, The Magic Flute, which for months was performed roughly
    every other day,[10] the premiere is generally judged to have been a success.

  • The Marriage of Figaro in Mozart’s version is the dramatic equal, and in many respects the superior, of Beaumarchais’s work.

  • When the Count appears, Cherubino hides behind a chair, not wanting to be seen alone with Susanna.

  • As Basilio, the music teacher, arrives, the Count, not wanting to be caught alone with Susanna, hides behind the chair.

  • All beg him to forgive Figaro and the “Countess”, but he loudly refuses, repeating “no” at the top of his voice, until finally the real Countess re-enters and reveals her
    true identity.

  • It seems the Count is angry with Cherubino’s amorous ways, having discovered him with the gardener’s daughter, Barbarina, and plans to punish him.

  • Figaro gets his attention by loudly declaring his love for “the Countess” (really Susanna).

  • The Countess dictates a love letter for Susanna to send to the Count, which suggests that he meet her (Susanna) that night, “under the pines”.

  • The act closes with the double wedding, during the course of which Susanna delivers her letter to the Count (Finale: “Here is the procession”).

  • Figaro then arrives and tries to start the wedding festivities, but the Count berates him with questions about the anonymous note.

  • He keeps finding excuses to delay the civil part of the wedding of his two servants, which is arranged for this very day.

  • [28] Count Almaviva; Countess Rosina Almaviva; Susanna, the countess’s maid; Figaro, personal valet to the count; Cherubino, the Count’s page; Marcellina, Doctor Bartolo’s
    housekeeper; Bartolo, doctor from Seville, also a practicing lawyer; Basilio, music teacher; Don Curzio, judge; Barbarina, Antonio’s daughter, Susanna’s cousin; Antonio, the Count’s gardener, Susanna’s uncle; Chorus of peasants, villagers,
    and servants Synopsis The Marriage of Figaro continues the plot of The Barber of Seville several years later, and recounts a single “day of madness” in the palace of Count Almaviva near Seville, Spain.

  • Figaro gives Cherubino mocking advice about his new, harsh, military life from which all luxury, and especially women, will be totally excluded (aria: “No more gallivanting”).

  • [5][6] Mozart’s librettist managed to get official approval from the emperor for an operatic version, which eventually achieved great success.

  • As Susanna leaves, the Count overhears her telling Figaro that he has already won the case.

  • Thinking that Susanna is meeting the Count behind his back, Figaro complains to his mother, and swears to be avenged on the Count and Susanna, and on all unfaithful wives.

  • Following the directions in the letter, the Count has sent the pin back to Susanna, giving it to Barbarina.

  • The Countess tells him that Susanna is in the closet, and that she cannot come out, because she is trying on her wedding dress.

  • While the Countess and Cherubino are waiting for Susanna to come back, they suddenly hear the Count arriving.

  • He tells a tale of how he was given common sense by “Donna Flemma” (“Dame Prudence”) and learned the importance of not crossing powerful people.

  • Figaro argues that he cannot get married without his parents’ permission, and that he does not know who his parents are, because he was stolen from them when he was a baby.

  • Frequently omitted numbers Two arias from act 4 are often omitted: one in which Marcellina regrets that people (unlike animals) abuse their mates, and one in which Don Basilio
    tells how he saved himself from several dangers in his youth, by using the skin of a donkey for shelter and camouflage.

  • To replace “Deh vieni” he wrote “[come and fly] To the desire of [the one] who adores you” (K. 577) in July 1789, and to replace “Venite, inginocchiatevi” he wrote “A joyous
    emotion”, (K. 579), probably in mid-1790.

  • The work is well known and often played independently as a concert piece.

  • His victory is, however, short-lived: Marcellina, Bartolo, and Basilio enter, bringing charges against Figaro and demanding that he honor his contract to marry Marcellina,
    since he cannot repay her loan.

  • This production was a tremendous success; the newspaper Prager Oberpostamtszeitung called the work “a masterpiece”,[22] and said “no piece (for everyone here asserts) has
    ever caused such a sensation.

  • The finale of act 2, lasting 20 minutes, is one of the longest uninterrupted pieces of music Mozart ever wrote.

  • The Count demands an explanation; the Countess tells him it is a practical joke, to test his trust in her.

  • Bartolo, seeking revenge against Figaro for having facilitated the union of the Count and Rosina (in The Barber of Seville), agrees to represent Marcellina pro bono, and assures
    her, in comical lawyer-speak, that he can win the case for her (aria: “Vengeance”).

  • [2] In 2017, BBC News Magazine asked 172 opera singers to vote for the best operas ever written.

  • They hope that the Count will be too busy looking for imaginary adulterers to interfere with Figaro and Susanna’s wedding.

  • [25] For this occasion Mozart replaced both arias of Susanna with new compositions, better suited to the voice of Adriana Ferrarese del Bene who took the role.

  • All leave, before Barbarina, Antonio’s daughter, invites Cherubino back to her house so they can disguise him as a girl.

  • Figaro finally lets on that he has recognized Susanna’s voice, and they make peace, resolving to conclude the comedy together (“Peace, peace, my sweet treasure”).

  • “[23] Local music lovers paid for Mozart to visit Prague and hear the production; he listened on 17 January 1787, and conducted it himself on the 22nd.

  • Where could words be found that are worthy to describe such joy?


Works Cited

[‘1. “The 20 Greatest Operas of All Time”. Classical Music.
2. ^ “Statistics for the five seasons 2009/10 to 2013/14”. Operabase. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
3. ^ “The 20 Greatest Operas of All Time”. Classical
4. ^ “Mozart’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro'”. National Public Radio. 13 July 2007.
5. ^ Mann, William. The Operas of Mozart. Cassell, London, 1977, p. 366 (in chapter on Le Nozze di Figaro).
6. ^ The librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte in his
memoirs asserted that the play was banned only for its sexual references. See the Memoirs of Lorenzo Da Ponte, translated by Elisabeth Abbott (New York: Da Capo Press, 1988), 150.
7. ^ While the political content was suppressed, the opera enhanced
the emotional content. According to Stendhal, Mozart “transformed into real passions the superficial attachments that amuse Beaumarchais’s easy-going inhabitants of [Count Almaviva’s castle] Aguas Frescas”. Stendhal’s French text is in: Dümchen,
Sybil; Nerlich, Michael, eds. (1994). Stendhal – Text und Bild (in German). Tübingen: Gunter Narr. ISBN 978-3-8233-3990-8.
8. ^ Broder, Nathan (1951). “Essay on the Story of the Opera”. The Marriage of Figaro: Le Nozze di Figaro. By Mozart, Wolfgang
Amadeus; Da Ponte, Lorenzo (piano reduction vocal score). Translated by Martin, Ruth; Martin, Thomas. New York: Schirmer. pp. v–vi. (Quoting Memoirs of Lorenzo da Ponte, transl. and ed. by L. A. Sheppard, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1929, pp.
9. ^ Jump up to:a b Deutsch 1965, p. 274
10. ^ Jump up to:a b Solomon 1995, p. [page needed]
11. ^ Deutsch 1965, p. 272 Deutsch says Mozart played a harpsichord; for conflicting testimony, see below.
12. ^ These were: 3, 8, 24 May; 4
July, 28 August, 22 (perhaps 23) of September, 15 November, 18 December Deutsch 1965, p. 272
13. ^ Deutsch 1965, p. 272
14. ^ Rice 1999, p. 331.
15. ^ 9 May 1786, quoted from Deutsch 1965, p. 272
16. ^ Deutsch 1965, p. 275
17. ^ Quoted in
Deutsch 1965, p. 278
18. ^ From Kazinczy’s 1828 autobiography; quoted in Deutsch 1965, p. 276
19. ^ The letter, to Marianne von Genzinger, is printed in Geiringer & Geiringer 1982, pp. 90–92
20. ^ Landon & Jones 1988, p. 174
21. ^ Deutsch
1965, p. 276
22. ^ Deutsch 1965, p. 281
23. ^ Deutsch 1965, p. 280
24. ^ Deutsch 1965, p. 285
25. ^ Performance dates: 29 and 31 August; 2, 11, 19 September; 3, 9, 24 October; 5, 13, 27 November; 8 January 1790; 1 February; 1, 7, 9, 19, 30
May; 22 June; 24, 26 July; 22 August; 3, 25 September; 11 October; 4, 20 January 1791; 9 February; from Deutsch 1965, p. 272
26. ^ Dexter Edge, “Mozart’s Viennese Copyists” (PhD diss., University of Southern California, 2001), 1718–34.
27. ^
Jump up to:a b Le nozze di Figaro, p. 2, NMA II/5/16/1-2 (1973)
28. ^ See Robinson 1986, p. 173; Chanan 1999, p. 63; and Singher & Singher 2003, p. 150. Mozart (and his contemporaries) never used the terms “mezzo-soprano” or “baritone”. Women’s
roles were listed as either “soprano” or “contralto”, while men’s roles were listed as either “tenor” or “bass”. Many of Mozart’s baritone and bass-baritone roles derive from the basso buffo tradition, where no clear distinction was drawn between
bass and baritone, a practice that continued well into the 19th century. Similarly, mezzo-soprano as a distinct voice type was a 19th-century development (Jander et al. 2001, chapters “Baritone” and “Mezzo-soprano [mezzo]”). Modern re-classifications
of the voice types for Mozartian roles have been based on analysis of contemporary descriptions of the singers who created those roles and their other repertoire, and on the role’s tessitura in the score.
29. ^ Angermüller, Rudolph (1 November
1988). Mozart’s Operas. Rizzoli. p. 137. ISBN 9780847809936.
30. ^ Thomas, Hugh (2006). “Ten – Leaving Madrid.”. Beaumarchais in Seville: an intermezzo. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 143. ISBN 978-0-300-12103-2. Retrieved 27 August 2008.
Synopsis based on Melitz 1921, pp. 251–254.
31. ^ This piece became so popular that Mozart himself, in the final act of his next opera Don Giovanni, transformed the aria into Tafelmusik played by a woodwind ensemble, and alluded to by Leporello
as “rather well-known sounds”.
32. ^ Brown-Montesano, Kristi (2007). Understanding the Women of Mozart’s Operas, p. 207. University of California Press. ISBN 052093296X
33. ^ Gossett, Philip (2008). Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera,
pp. 239–240. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226304876
34. ^ English translation taken from Deutsch 1965, pp. 273–274
35. ^ Rosen 1997, p. 182.
36. ^ Rosen 1997, p. 183.
37. ^ Jump up to:a b “The Marriage of Figaro – a musical guide” by
Tom Service, The Guardian, 14 August 2012
38. ^ “Verdi Falstaff (La Scala, 1932) – About this Recording” by Keith Anderson, Naxos Records
39. ^ “Belly laugh: Verdi’s Falstaff ends CBSO season in high spirits” by Mark Pullinger, Bachtrack, 14
July 2016
40. ^ Harris, Robert, What to listen for in Mozart, 2002, ISBN 0743244044, p. 141; in a different translation, Peter Gay, Mozart: A Life, Penguin, New York, 1999, p. 131.
41. ^ Cairns, David (2007). Mozart and His Operas. Penguin. p.
256. ISBN 9780141904054. Retrieved 19 August 2014.
42. ^ Phillip Huscher (5 June 2014). “Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto, ‘a little masterpiece'”. Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Retrieved 8 June 2020.
43. ^ Bishop, Henry R. (1819). The Marriage of Figaro:
A Comic Opera in Three Acts. Piccadilly: John Miller.
2. Chanan, Michael (1999). From Handel to Hendrix: The Composer in the Public Sphere. Verso. ISBN 1-85984-706-4.
3. Deutsch, Otto Erich (1965). Mozart: A Documentary Biography. Stanford University
4. Geiringer, Karl; Geiringer, Irene (1982). Haydn: A Creative Life in Music (3rd ed.). University of California Press. pp. xii, 403. ISBN 0-520-04316-2.
5. Jander, Owen; Steane, J. B.; Forbes, Elizabeth; Harris, Ellen T.; Waldman, Gerald
(2001). Stanley Sadie; John Tyrrell (eds.). The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd ed.). Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-60800-3.
6. Landon, H. C. Robbins; Jones, David Wyn (1988). Haydn: His Life and Music. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-37265-9.
7. Melitz,
Leo [de] (1921). The Opera Goer’s Complete Guide. Translated by Richard Salinger. Garden City: Dodd, Mead and Co.
8. Rice, John A. (1999). Antonio Salieri and Viennese Opera. University of Chicago Press.
9. Robinson, Paul A. (1986). Opera & Ideas:
From Mozart to Strauss. Cornell University Press. p. 173. ISBN 0-8014-9428-1.
10. Rosen, Charles (1997). The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven (2nd ed.). New York: W. W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-31712-9. (At
11. Singher, Martial;
Singher, Eta (2003). An Interpretive Guide to Operatic Arias: A Handbook for Singers, Coaches, Teachers, and Students. Penn State University Press. ISBN 0-271-02354-6.
12. Solomon, Maynard (1995). Mozart: A Life. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780060190460.

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