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The Marriage of Figaro

The Marriage of Figaro is an opera composed in 1786 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The libretto is by Lorenzo da Ponte based on a comedy by Beaumarchais. Its original Italian title is Le Nozze di Figaro. The action follows that shown in The Barber of Seville. First production, Vienna, 1786.


The action in this opera is the direct continuation of The Barber of Seville. Rosina is now the Countess Almaviva; her husband, however, is not a pattern of virtue, but is seeking the love of Antonio's daughter, Barbarina. When he detects the rivalry of the forward page, Cherubino, he tries to get rid of him by procuring for him an officer's commission. Figaro has entered the service of the count and is making preparations for his nuptials with Rosina's ward, Susanna. The part of Cherubino, a man, is sung by a woman. (The term pants role is used in opera to refer to this type of casting.)

Act I

A room in the palace. Figaro is measuring the space for the placing of the furniture. Susanna is trying on a hat before the mirror. [At the present day, following the French original more closely, the bridal wreath is substituted for the hat.] (Duet: "Five, ten, twenty, thirty.") They talk of the future. (Duet: "Should the countess ring for you at night.") Susanna is annoyed by the gallantry of Almaviva, but is reassured by Figaro. (Aria: "Should the little count dare to dance.") Dr. Bartholo arrives, and is engaged by Marzelline, the housekeeper, as counsel, for she intends to bring suit against Figaro, who had previously promised her marriage to cancel a debt. (Bartholo's aria: "Sweet revenge, you give great joy"; Duet between Marzelline and Susanna: "Forward, I pray, thou model of beauty.") Cherubino arrives and asks Susanna's aid with the count, as he does not wish to go away. (Aria: "New joys, new pains.") When the count and Basilio appear, he hides himself, and Susanna feigns a swoon; in the confusion, Cherubino jumps upon a chair and covers himself with a woman?s dress. (Terzett: "What do I hear? Go at once and drive the imp away.") The count discovers him, and he is only saved from punishment by the entrance of the peasants. (Chorus.) Cherubino is compelled to depart, and Figaro gives him good advice. (Aria: "There forget low-voiced prayers, sweet alarms.")

Act II

Room of the countess. The countess laments her husband's infidelity. (Aria: "Holy source of my desires.") Susanna admits Cherubino, and they proceed to attire him in women's clothes in order that he may attend the wedding. (Aria of Cherubino: "Ye, who know the desires of my heart.") They dress his hair. (Susanna's aria: "Come nearer, kneel before me.") The count arriving, Cherubino flies into the next room, into which the count wishes to enter, having heard some one moving about. The countess pretends it is only Susanna, and the count, locking all the doors, leaves with the countess to find some way of getting into the room. (Terzett: "Now, then, will it soon be done?" Duet: "Dear countess, may I ask.") Susanna frees Cherubino, who jumps from the window, and she enters the room from which he has escaped. The count and countess return. He thinks Cherubino has hid-den himself, but finds to his astonishment only Susanna. (Finale: "Come out, young miscreant.") In the meantime, Figaro, who fears the gallantries of the count, at-tempts to prevent him from appearing at his wedding by an anonymous letter, but interrogated by the countess confesses that he has written it. When Antonio, the gardener, brings in a letter, which he says has been dropped by a man who escaped through the window, Figaro pretends that he has been with Susanna. The document, however, proves to be Cherubino's appointment as an officer, and Figaro gets out of this scrape also by presenting it to the count for the purpose of affixing his seal, which was missing. Marzelline, Bartholo and Basilio now appear, and the former brings her charge against Figaro. The wedding is postponed in order that the count may investigate.


The festal chamber. The count is confused by the preceding occurrences, and at the request of the countess, Susanna agrees to meet him in the garden. She first changes clothes with the countess. (Duet: "Long have I languished.") Susanna whispers to Figaro that success is now certain and his suit is won. The count is angry. (Aria: "Shall I have my happiness?") The court scene follows (Sextet, Almaviva, Figaro, Don Guzman, Bartholo, the countess and Susanna: "Behold your father"), in which it appears that Figaro is the natural son of Marzelline and Bartholo, so he cannot possibly marry the housekeeper. The countess is left alone (Recitative and aria: "And Susanna comes not"), when the maid arrives and reports everything favourable. The countess dictates a love letter for Susanna to send. (Duet: "Now shall I?") The count is to return the pin which fastens the letter, in token that he has received it. A chorus of young peasants, among them Cherubino, serenades the countess. ("Countess, the roses.") The count arrives with Antonio, and, discovering the page, is enraged, but is appeased by Susanna?s letter. He tears his finger with the pin, which annoys him once more. (March and finale: "Let us march in order.") The act closes with an invitation to the evening's feast. (Chorus: "Faithful lovers with wreaths bedecked.")

Act IV

In the garden (sometimes preceded by a scene in the corridor). Following the directions in the letter, the count has sent Barbarina with the pin, but she has lost it. (Aria: "Unfortunate little pin.") Figaro learns its significance from Barbarina. (Recitative and aria: "All is well, the hour is near.") Actuated by jealousy, he induces Bartholo and Marzelline to come to the garden also and be present at the interview between the count and Susanna. Marzelline informs Susanna of this plan. (Aria: "The hour approaches" and "Tarry not, dear love.") The countess arrives in Susanna's dress; Cherubino seeks to kiss the supposed Susanna, but is prevented by the interference of the count, who aims a blow at Cherubino, which is received, however, by the ever-present Figaro. The count is pursuing the supposed Susanna, who eludes him, when the real Susanna arrives in the countess' clothes. Figaro tells her of the count's intentions, but recognises his bride. He enters into the comedy by paying deference to her as the countess, and again has his ears soundly boxed. They make peace, however, and he continues to play his rôle. As the count appears, he declares his love and sinks on his knees at her feet. The count calls for his people and for arms. Lights appear and universal recognition takes place to the confusion of the count, who has no excuses to make. (Finale: "Still, be still, I will approach.")