Le Nozze De Figaro
“Le Nozze di Figaro” or “The Marriage of Figaro,” subtitled “A Day of Folly,” an opera bouffe in four acts, with music by Mozart and text by Lorenza da Ponte, was first presented at the National Theatre, Vienna, May 1, 1786. It is founded on a comedy by Beaumarchais of the same name.
- Figaro (the Barber of Seville), valet to the Count
- Count Almaviva, a Spanish Noble
- Countess Almaviva, his wife
- Susanna, maid of the Countess, betrothed to Figaro
- Cherubino, page to the Countess
- Marcellina, servant to Bartolo
- Bartolo, a rejected lover of Susanna
- Basilio, a busybody
- Don Curzio
- Antonio, gardener to the Court
- Servants, country people, guards
This opera, though written previously, is in a sense a continuation of Rossini’s “Barber of Seville,” the principal characters being again introduced. The gallant Amaviva, with the assistance of Figaro, has married his adored Rosina, but, as with many truly loving husbands, marriage has not rendered him blind to other tender eyes and he indulges in an occasional flirtation. Just now, the particular object of his fancy is Susanna, the coquettish maid of his wife, the opera opening on the day arranged for her marriage to Figaro. The Countess has a page, Cherubino, a dainty youth of whom she is fond but whom she regards as a child. Cherubino, however, adores his mistress, and proves a facile instrument of punishment for the Count. Figaro, of course, assist quite willingly in the plot. To get rid of the boy, the Count orders him to enter the army, but the women save him by taking him to the Countess and dressing him at the critical moment as a girl. The Count’s suspicions have been aroused by a letter from Balilio and, when he demands admittance to his wife’s room, he finds the door licked in his face. When at last it is opened, he perceives that the Countess is much confused and insists upon searching the cabinet, which also is locked. While he is looking about for some means by which to break open the door, Cherubino escapes through the window and Susanna, taking his place, gravely confronts the angry husband when the lock yields. In a few moments, Antonio, the gardener, comes to complain of the ravages done to his flower beds by someone who jumped out of the window. Figaro, who has arrived, at once declares that he is the guilty one; that he had been having an interview with Susanna and feared the Count’s displeasure. When the gardener produces further evidence in the shape of a document which proves to be the page’s commission, Figaro glibly explains that he lost if from his own pocket, the page having entrusted it to him for legal reasons.
Bartolo and Marcellina, who have been previously introduced to sigh for unrequited love, the former for Susanna and the latter for Figaro, now reappear. Marcellina brings with her a marriage contract, which she says Figaro signed with her. She produces Bartolo as a witness. The Count, glad thus to dispose of Figaro, his rival, and to leave Susanna unmarried, decrees that the barber must fulfill the contract but the clever Figaro escapes through being able to prove, by marks on his arm, that he is the son of Marcellina and Bartolo. While he is embracing his new-found mother, Susanna appears and her jealousy is aroused.
The ladies do not consider that the Count’s punishment is yet complete and so arrange a nocturnal meeting in the garden. Susanna summons the Count by letter, while the Countess sends for Figaro. They disguise themselves by exchanging apparel and each meets her proper lover. The amorous Cherubino also appears on the scene but is put to flight by the Count. Meantime, the Count makes ardent love to the supposed Susanna. Figaro sees into the trick, but he pretends that he believe his vis-à-vis to be the Countess and so declares his adoration, thereby arousing the maid’s jealousy to such a pitch that she is restored to equanimity only by her lover’s confession that he knew her from the first.
These two then proceed to some genuine love-making, which is observed by the Count, who, in a rage, accosts the lady as “traitress.” He orders her to unveil, and when a light flashes upon the scene and he sees that he has been making love to his own wife, he is much abashed. Forgiveness is asked and granted on all sides, even Cherubino coming in for his share. The marriage of Figaro and Susanna is brought about and the capricious Count vows eternal fidelity to his wife.
In this charming work Mozart has combined the highest characteristics of the French and German schools. The music is a model of grace, lightness and beauty and its effervescent fun is always thoroughly refined. Cheerfulness is the keynote of the composition, for in “The Marriage of Figaro” Mozart’s laughter-loving soul seems to have had unbridled expression. Although more than a century has passed since its composition, it still holds its place as one of the most admirable of operatic works, time seeming to smile in sympathy and to withhold his ravages. It was written in less than a month and met with instant success, although a short time later is was discarded in Vienna, owing to the machinations of Mozart’s Italian rivals. Next to “Don Giovanni” it was the favorite of its composer.
“The Marriage of Figaro” contains such an embarrassment of riches that it is difficult to particularize. Among its delights are the strikingly descriptive overture; Figaro’s opening duet with Susanna, as he measures off the floor and she tries on her mistress’ hat before the mirror; Figaro’s threat, “Se vuol ballare” (“If you’re for dancing”), sung to a guitar-like accompaniment; Cherubino’s aria, “Non so piucosa son” (“Ah! What feelings now posses me”); Figaro’s celebrated number, “Non piu andrai” (“Play no more”); the Countess’ song, “Porgi amor” (“Love, thou holy impulse”); Cherubino’s romance “Voi che sapete” (“What is this feeling”); the splendid finale to the second act; the regret of the Countess, “Dove sono!” (“Where are they”); the “Letter Duet” of Susanna and the Countess and Susann’s “Deh vieni” (“Ah! Why so long delay?”).