The Marriage of Figaro
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Following is a synopsis and brief history of Mozart's opera of The Marriage of Figaro (La nozze di Figaro). Photos are from the Opera production staged at various theaters throughout Central Florida during the month of November 2003. Susanna, and in select performances Cherubino, was sung by Elizabeth Harmetz, soprano.
The Marriage of Figaro (Le mariage de Figaro) subtitled The Craziest Day (La folle journée) is the second in the Figaro trilogy of plays by Beaumarchais and follows the action of The Barber of Seville. Beaumarchais completed work on both plays in 1773 (Barber of Seville) & 1778 (Marriage of Figaro). The plays were considered scandalous at the time due to its depiction of incompetent and hedonistic nobleman being outwitted by a quick-witted servant. Performances were opposed by French censors and Louis XVI due to their"class subversion" theme until 1775 and 1784 respectively. Beaumarchais' trilogy concludes with The Guilty Mother. The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro were high examples of Eighteenth century light comedy but now are almost exclusively remembered by the respective operas of Rossini and Mozart. There have been other Musical settings of Figaro than Mozart's but Mozart's Marriage of Figaro is noted for its richness of musical invention and subtle characterization. Classified as an Opera Buffa, Mozart's 4 act opera is consistently ranked as one of the most beloved and most performed operas in today's standard repertoire. Lorenzo da Ponte wrote the libretto for Mozart's adaptation which was first performed at the Vienna Burgtheater, May 1, 1786.
Mozart collaborated with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte on only two other operas: Cosi fan tutte and Don Giovanni.
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, K.492 (1756 - 1791)
With the assistance of Figaro (see The Barber of Seville), the Count Almaviva has married Rosina, the young ward of Dr. Bartolo. To the disappointment of the Countess Almaviva the Count seems to be making advances upon certain other ladies in his employ. Figaro has since entered service with the Count and as the first scene opens is making preparations for his upcoming marriage to Susanna, Rosina's maid. Action takes place in the castle of Aguasfrescas.
When Susanna is alone the page Cherubino enters and appeals to Susanna to ask the Countess to save him from the Count who plans to dismiss him. Cherubino's reflections on his love for the Countess are interrupted when Almaviva approaches so he hides under a chair. The Count Almaviva arrives to seduce Susanna but when the sly rumor-monger Don Basilio approaches Almaviva hides behind a chair. Unable to stay hidden while Basilio insinuates impropriety Almaviva angrily appears. In reenacting how he had just found Cherubino hiding in Barbarina's room the Count unveils Cherubino in Susanna's room.
Figaro enters with a chorus of peasants and thanks the Count for his previous renouncement of his feudal rights and asks Almaviva to marry him and Susanna. Publicly trapped, the count affirms. As the chorus exits, Almaviva, angry that Cherubino has heard the whole of his amorous conversation with Susanna, and possibly his prior conversation with Barbarina, drafts him as Captain and orders him to depart at once to his new regiment. Figaro mockingly apprises Cherubino of what life in the army will be like.
Alone in the Countess' bedchamber the Countess and Susanna playfully dress up Cherubino in women's clothes but are interrupted by Almaviva's knock at the door. Susanna had already exited to an ante-chamber so the flustered Countess locks Cherubino in the closet. The Count enters and is immediately suspicious of the locked door to his wife's bed chamber. Believing someone to be hiding in the locked closet the Count vows to break into it and takes his wife with him as he departs to fetch his tools, locking the exterior door as he goes. Susanna returns to release Cherubino but with the exit locked Cherubino jumps out of the balcony window to flee. Susanna then hides in the closet. The Countess returns and confesses that Cherubino is in the closet but both are surprised when instead Susanna walks out. Almaviva is chastened for his suspicions and begs forgiveness.
Figaro enters to gather everyone for the wedding but the Count confronts him with a letter. Unaware of what just transpired, Figaro denies knowledge. Antonio the gardener noisily bumbles in to complain about flowers that were damaged by a man jumping out the window. Figaro, finally understanding the situation, says it was he that jumped out and starts to limp to prove it. Marcellina enters with Dr Bartolo and Basilio to claim that Figaro must marry Marcellina as a legal promise for an unpaid debt.
Marcellina, with the legal assistance of Dr Bartolo and Don Curzio presses her claim that Figaro must marry her. Figaro delays by saying he cannot marry because his parents are missing. He reveals a birthmark on his arm which the elated Marcellina recognizes as belonging to her long lost son. Marcellina introduces Figaro to her father: Dr Bartolo. Susanna enters and misconstrues the maternal embrace between Figaro and Marcellina. Dr Bartolo finally honors Marcellina marriage claims by agreeing to wed at the wedding of Figaro and Susanna.
The Countess plots to win back her husband. She helps Susanna compose a letter that will reaffirm Susanna's illicit rendezvous with the Count in the garden. The letter is sealed with a pin which must be returned as confirmation. During the wedding ceremony Susanna passes the note to Almaviva.
Susanna (disguised as the Countess) enters the garden aware of Figaro and sings of her pure love for her husband before hiding. Cherubino enters expecting to rendezvous with Barbarina but instead spies the Countess (disguised as Susanna) and takes her as Susanna. Cherubino attempts to seduce Susanna when Almaviva arrives for his rendezvous with Susanna and witnesses the usurping seducer. Almaviva intervenes between them, mistakenly gets a kiss from Cherubino and in chasing Cherubino off unknowingly slaps the cuckolded Figaro. The Countess, (disguised as Susanna) takes her leave and Almaviva departs after her.
Susanna returns (still dressed as the Countess) and Figaro approaches her to plot revenge against Susanna but Figaro quickly recognizes Susanna's voice. Figaro pretends to seduce the Countess which infuriates the disguised Susanna who then reveals herself to the laughing Figaro. They continue the charade of Figaro seducing the Countess. The Count Almaviva witnesses Figaro seducing his wife and outraged, awakens everyone on the estate to witness his judgment. In the final denouement the real Countess enters, pretenses and disguises are removed and a humbled Almaviva asks Rosina for her forgiveness. Amidst the darkness of the night all the characters join together to sing an anthem of Love.
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SONG AND RECITATIVE LIST:
Synopsis of The Marriage of Figaro
(Images courtesy of and used with permission of Central Florida Lyric Opera © 2003.)