The Marriage of
nozze di Figaro) is set in Count Almaviva's castle in Seville in the late 18th Century. It is
based on Beaumarchais's 1784 play La Folle Journée, ou Le
Mariage de Figaro, a sequel to his earlier play, Le Barbier
de Séville (The Barber of Seville), familiar to opera
audiences through Rossini's great opera (Mozart's opera premiered in
1786; Rossini's premiered in 1816). In Le Barbier,
Count Almaviva, with substantial help from Figaro, wooed and won the
lovely Rosina away from her crusty old ward and would-be husband,
In The Marriage
of Figaro, Beaumarchais continued their story. The Count
has married Rosina but their marriage has gone sour because of his
philandering. Figaro has quit barbering and is now the Count's
major-domo. He is engaged to Suzanne, who is Countess Rosina’s
maid -- and the Count's intended conquest. Old Bartolo is back
to seek revenge on Figaro for taking Rosina away from him, with the
help of the slimy music-master, Don Bazilio. Adding to the fun
are an amorous teenager, a scheming old maid, a drunken gardener,
and a silly young girl. Much happens on a single "folle
journée" - a crazy day.
librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte, took this popular play, removed
"political" content that would have offended the Viennese imperial
censors (the French Revolution was only a few years away), and
faithfully translated the rest into Italian -- the customary opera
language of the day. With Mozart's masterpiece of a score, the
result was a witty yet profound tale of love, betrayal, and
the first Figaro (Vienna, 1786).
production will be sung in English
Figaro is measuring
a space for his nuptial bed while his fiancée, Susanna, tries on her
bridal hat. She doesn't like their new bedroom. Figaro
doesn't understand why, as it's very convenient to the bedrooms of
the Count and Countess. But Susanna warns Figaro that it's too
convenient for the Count, who is plotting with her music-master, Don
Basilio, to get her to sleep with the Count. Susanna goes off when
the Countess rings for her. Alone, Figaro vows revenge and
storms off in a cold rage.
Dr. Bartolo enters
with his housekeeper, Marcellina. Figaro once promised to
marry her, and Bartolo promises to find a way to make him do it.
It would be the perfect revenge on Figaro, who blocked his marriage
to Rosina. Bartolo goes off to put his scheme into effect.
Susanna returns, and Marcellina jealously spars with her, making
Marcellina go off in a huff. The teenaged page Cherubino now
enters. He tells Susanna that he is in love with the Countess,
but the Count has caught him with young Barbarina (Susanna's cousin
and the gardener Antonio's daughter). Cherubino can't contain his
behind a chair when the Count arrives to beg Susanna for a tryst
before he goes to London
with Figaro on diplomatic business. But his wooing is
interrupted by the arrival of Don Basilio, and it's the Count's turn
to hide. He heads for the same chair where Cherubino is hiding,
forcing the boy to jump into the seat. Susanna hastily covers
him with a cloth. Hearing Basilio's insinuating gossip about
Cherubino and the Countess, the jealous Count reveals himself.
Basilio of course concludes that the Count and Susanna are an item.
This is all too much for Susanna, who begins to faint. The
Count and Basilio rush to her aid and try to get her into the chair,
but she revives just in time and orders them away. The Count
vows to make Cherubino leave the castle. When Susanna
expresses sympathy for the boy, the Count tells her that it's not
the first time Cherubino has been caught with a female.
Recalling how he found the page hiding under a tablecloth in
Barbarina's room, he lifts the cloth concealing Cherubino. The
Count now accuses Susanna of dallying with the boy.
But their argument
is interrupted by the arrival of Figaro and a group of peasants,
who, at Figaro's instigation, are singing the Count's praises for
having abolished the feudal right of the lord of the manor to sleep
with his servant's bride. Figaro invites the Count to place the
bridal veil on Susanna as a symbol of his blessing on their
marriage, which is to take place later that day. The Count is
forced to agree, but privately vows to help Marcellina marry Figaro
instead. He also gets Cherubino out of the way by drafting him
into his regiment. Figaro teases the boy, for he'll have to
sacrifice his love-making and enjoy instead the "glories" of war.
In her boudoir, the
Countess bemoans the Count's infidelity. Susanna has told her about
the Count's plans to seduce her. Figaro arrives. He
knows that the Count is plotting to help Marcellina. He has
his own plan: through Basilio, he will send the Count an
anonymous note about the Countess's "lover." This is sure to
drive him to distraction. Meanwhile, Susanna is to agree to
meet the Count in the garden, only it will be Cherubino, disguised
as Susanna, he will be wooing. The Countess can then surprise
him in flagrante delicto. Figaro goes off to get the boy.
and, at Susanna's urging, sings the Countess a love song that he
wrote for her. He shows the Countess his regimental
commission, which he had just gotten from Basilio. She and
Susanna realize that it has no seal on it. Figaro has told
Cherubino of the plan, and Susanna begins to dress the uncomfortable
boy as a woman. When she goes into another room to get a
ribbon, he takes advantage of her absence to declare his love for
the Countess. At that moment, the suspicious Count bangs on
the door, and Cherubino dives into the closet.
The Count demands
to know to whom the Countess was speaking, and she tells him it was
Susanna, who has gone into another room. He shows her the
anonymous letter that Figaro had written about her "lover." A
noise from the closet obliges the Countess to say that Susanna is in
there, not in the other room. Susanna re-enters the room,
unseen by the Count and Countess, and realizes that there's some
kind of problem, so she hides behind a screen. As Cherubino
cowers, terrified, in the closet, the Count orders "Susanna" out,
but the Countess forbids it. The Count is convinced that the
Countess is hiding a lover in there. As they argue, they warn
each other not to go too far and create a scandal. Susanna
remains behind her screen, horrified by the situation. The
Countess absolutely refuses to open the closet, so the Count brings
her with him to get something to break the closet open, locking the
door behind him. Susanna lets Cherubino out of the closet.
In a panic, he escapes through the window, and Susanna hides in the
When the Count and
Countess return, she finally admits that Cherubino is in the closet,
claiming that it was just a joke. He doesn't believe her
protestations of innocence and threatens to kill Cherubino.
Drawing his sword, he flings open the closet door. They are
both astonished to find Susanna. The Count, abashed, is forced
to beg his wife's forgiveness. She and Susanna explain that
the episode with the closet, and the anonymous note, were all a
prank. Figaro arrives to announce that the wedding is about to
begin. Questioned by the Count, he denies writing the
anonymous note, to the consternation of Susanna and the Countess.
The Count is anxious for Marcellina's arrival so he can stop the
Now Antonio the
gardener barges in, complaining that someone jumped from the
Countess's balcony onto his flower garden. Susanna and the
Countess warn Figaro, who had already seen Cherubino jump. He
claims that he himself leapt from the balcony. But Antonio
claims he saw a boy. The Count immediately realizes that it
was Cherubino. Figaro, sticking to his story, claims that
Cherubino was on his way to
Seville. He explains that he was hiding
in the closet waiting for Susanna. After overhearing the Count
shouting, he decided to escape by jumping, and injured his foot.
He suddenly develops a limp in order to prove his story. But
Antonio produces Cherubino's military commission, which he found in
the garden. Figaro, confounded, throws the gardener out.
Prompted by the women, Figaro triumphantly explains that the page
gave it to him because it lacks a seal. Marcellina, Bartolo,
and Basilio now come to demand justice, claiming that Figaro entered
into a contract to marry Marcellina in exchange for a loan.
The Count agrees to judge the case, to the joy of Marcellina and the
consternation of Figaro.
Alone, the Count
ponders the confusing situation. Unseen by the Count, the
Countess urges a reluctant Susanna to go ahead with the plan and
tell the Count that she will meet him in the garden later.
Because Cherubino is gone, the Countess will impersonate Susanna.
The Countess takes herself off. Susanna overhears the Count
talking to himself about Figaro marrying Marcellina.
Emboldened, she approaches him, claiming that she has come to get
some smelling salts for the Countess, who is having a fainting fit.
He tells her that she should keep it herself, because she is about
to lose her intended husband. She counters that she will repay
Marcellina's loan with the dowry the Count had promised her.
But the Count claims he can't remember any such promise. She
has no choice but to flirt with him and the pact is made. But
as she is leaving, she runs into Figaro, and the Count overhears her
saying that they have "won the case." Enraged, the Count
threatens to punish them for their betrayal.
The judge Don
Curzio arrives with Marcellina and Bartolo. He announces that
Figaro must marry Marcellina or repay the loan. Figaro claims
that he is of noble birth and cannot marry without his relatives'
consent. When the Count asks who they are, Figaro replies that
he was stolen as an infant, but hopes to find his parents in 10
years. Bartolo demands proof, so Figaro shows him a birthmark
on his arm -- a birthmark that reveals that he is the love-child of
Marcellina and Bartolo! The reunited family embrace as the
frustrated Count rails against Fate. Meanwhile, Susanna,
unaware of this development, arrives with the money to pay
Marcellina, only to be enraged by the sight of Figaro and Marcellina
fondly embracing. But peace reigns when all is explained to
her. The Count storms off with Don Curzio. Bartolo now
proposes to Marcellina. Marcellina tears up Figaro's I.O.U.
Bartolo gives Figaro and Susanna a dowry, and Susanna adds to it the
money she had come in with. The four, chuckling at the Count's
frustration, go off to plan a double wedding.
enters, wondering if their plan to catch the Count will work, and
recalling sadly the loss of their love. After she leaves,
Antonio and the Count arrive. Antonio tells the Count that he
knows that Cherubino is still in the vicinity, because he found at
his house the woman's clothes that Cherubino had been wearing.
They run off to look for him. The Countess returns with
Susanna and the two concoct a note, from Susanna to the Count,
asking for a meeting in the garden. They seal the note with a
pin, which the Count is to return if he agrees to meet her.
Barbarina and some peasant girls, including Cherubino in disguise,
come to serenade the Countess. Antonio and the Count return to
unmask Cherubino. The Count threatens to punish the boy, but
Barbarina persuades the Count -- who had once, with kisses, promised
her anything she wanted -- to let her marry Cherubino.
eager for the wedding preparations to begin. The Count begins
to cross-examine him again, and Antonio produces Cherubino as proof
that they've caught Figaro lying. But Figaro cleverly claims
that it's possible that both he and Cherubino jumped into the
garden. The wedding march begins, and everyone goes off to get
ready, leaving the Count and Countess alone. She refuses to
discuss the matter with him. The wedding party returns in
procession, singing another paean to the abolition of the feudal
right to sleep with the bride. Susanna slips the sealed note
to the Count. As the couples dance the fandango, the Count
opens the note, pricks his finger on the pin, and then drops it.
Figaro watches him with great amusement, believing that it's a
love-note from some unknown lady. The Count finds the pin,
thrilled at the prospect of meeting Susanna later, invites everyone
to magnificent wedding banquet.
upset, is searching the garden for something that she has lost.
When Figaro arrives with Marcellina and asks the weeping girl what's
wrong, she replies that she has lost the pin that the Count gave her
to deliver to Susanna as a token of their tryst. Angry, but
pretending that he already knows all about it, he plucks a pin from
Marcellina's dress and gives it to Barbarina, who goes off to give
it to Susanna. Figaro collapses into his mother's arms.
She advises him to stay calm, but rage overtakes him and he vows to
avenge all deceived husbands. Marcellina, afraid for Susanna,
goes off to warn her. Figaro then enlists Basilio and Bartolo
to help trap the lovers. Alone again, he denounces the perfidy
of women. He hides as Susanna arrives, accompanied by
Marcellina and the Countess. Marcellina warns Susanna that
Figaro is already in the garden. That suits Susanna just fine,
as she can avenge herself on both Figaro for his jealousy and the
Count for his philandering. Marcellina retires into the
pavilion. The Countess is too nervous to remain, but allows
Susanna to stay for a bit to enjoy the breezes. Susanna sings
a love song to an unnamed lover to punish the spying Figaro.
Then she hides nearby and puts on the Countess's cloak.
Figaro is furious,
but he continues to lie in wait. Cherubino arrives, looking
for Barbarina, who has meanwhile hidden herself in the pavilion.
At the same time, the Countess enters, disguised as Susanna.
Cherubino, not realizing who she really is, begins flirting with
her. The Count comes in and receives the kiss meant for
"Susanna." The Count slaps Cherubino for his impudence, and
the boy flees into the pavilion. Now the Count does some
flirting of his own with "Susanna", infuriating Figaro further.
The Count tries to lure her into the dark pavilion, but, hearing
Figaro's voice and fearing discovery, tells "Susanna" to go ahead
into the pavilion without him. He exits, promising to meet her
Now the real
Susanna arrives, disguised as the Countess. When Figaro hears
her voice, he immediately realizes that she is Susanna. He
pretends to court "the Countess." Susanna is furious until he
reveals his joke, and they tenderly reconcile. When the Count
returns, the couple replays the joke. The enraged Count seizes
Figaro and calls for weapons. Susanna flees into the pavilion
as Bartolo, Basilio, Antonio, and Curzio rush in. The Count
demands that his wife come out of the pavilion. To everyone's
amazement, out pop Cherubino, Barbarina, Marcellina, and Susanna,
still dressed as the Countess. She and Figaro pretend to beg
the Count's forgiveness. He is adamant until the real Countess
reveals herself. The chastened Count humbly asks her pardon,
she grants it, and everyone rejoices.