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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The Marriage of Figaro

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - "THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO"
Wichita Grand Opera
March 16, 2013

Conductor: Dean Williamson
FIGARO - Patrick Carfizzi
COUNT ALMAVIVA - Jason Detwiler
COUNTESS ALMAVIVA - Zvetelina Vassileva
SUSANNA - Ava Pine
CHERUBINO - Kaitlyn Costello
MARCELLINA - Erin Mundus
DR. BARTOLO - Charles Turley
DON BASILIO - Brian Frutiger
DON CURZIO - Brian Frutiger
ANTONIO - John Stephens
BARBARINA - Alyssa Nance

If Mozart's Don Giovanni is the greatest of operas, as many musicians have testified, The Marriage of Figaro is surely the best-beloved of musicians. And not only of musicians, either, for it has the distinction of being the oldest opera in the permanent repertoire of virtually every lyric stage in the Western world (Gluck's masterpieces being given more intermittently) and it has won the affections of countless thousands who do not greatly admire the standard fare of FaustAida, La Воhemе but make an exception for Figaro. Who, indeed, could fail to love Cherubino and Susanna or to relish a Figaro so much more elegant though no whit less vital than Rossini’s bumptious barber?

It is a little difficult, then, to remember that this adorable work was thoroughly revolutionary. The portrait of a group of servants mocking their aristocratic master, lightheartedly overthrowing his cherished droit du seigneur (the right to sleep with a nubile servant before turning her over to her servant husband), and making him beg for mercy at the end was something to frighten rulers at a time when the French Revolution was brewing. Beaumarchais's play was in print a long time before it was permitted on the Paris stage, and Emperor Joseph sanctioned the operatic version only after the librettist, Da Ponte, had assured him that the more scandalously revolutionary lines had been deleted.

But the opera is no less revolutionary musically than it is politically. The famous finale of Act II (not to mention the one of Act IV) is the first example in operatic history of a long, complex development in plot and character entirely set to expressive music throughout. No recitatives, no set arias, no stalling with the action and character while some prima donna exhibits her wares or some tenor titillates with tessitura. It is all straight musical storytelling, such as Wagner strove after and sometimes managed to achieve, such as is still the ideal of virtually every modem opera composer. And what music!

But it is completely unnecessary to understand how revolutionary the work once was in order to love it. It was a smash hit from the beginning with audiences who doubtless did not appreciate its revolutionary characteristics either, Michael Kelly, Mozart's Irish friend who created both tenor roles (singing under the Italian-looking name of Ochelli), reports its instantaneous hit in his Memoirs: every single number was encored, and a ruling had to be made in subsequent performances that only arias, not concerted numbers, could be repeated. When Mozart visited Prague the following year, he wrote to his father that he heard Figaro tunes wherever he went; they were the top numbers on the hit parade. And so it has been ever since.


Opera in four acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with libretto in Italian by Lorenzo Da Ponte, based on the French comedy of the same name by Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais


FIGARO, his valetBaritone


SUSANNA, her maid and Figaro's fianceeSoprano


MARCELLINA, his housekeeperSoprano

CHERUBINO, a pageSoprano

DON BASILIO, a music masterTenor

ANTONIO, a gardenerBass

BARBARINA, his daughterSoprano

DON CURZIO, counselor-at-lawTenor

Time: 18th century

Place: near Seville

First performance at Vienna, May 1, 1786


COUNT ALMAVIVA : Baritone. Married to Rosina (the Countess), whom he has neglected in favour of various amorous relationships. He attempts to seduce her maid Susanna and when almost caught in the act, has to hide behind a chair. He accuses his wife of having an affair with Cherubino and gives the young soldier a commission which means he must leave at once to join his regiment. He remains suspicious and continues to try to catch the Countess with a lover, while himself still hopes to seduce Susanna. She plots with her mistress and Figaro to teach the Count a lesson and they prove the Countess's innocence and Aimaviva's fickleness. He has to beg his wife’s forgiveness. Aria: Vedro, mentrio sospiro... ("Must I live to see").

Baritone Joshua Hopkins sings the aria Vedro mentr'io sospiro from Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro.

FIGARO : Baritone. The same barber as above, now valet to Count Almaviva and about to marry Susanna, the Countess's maid, on whom the Count also has designs. Figaro and Susanna will continue to live in the house and serve the Count and Countess, who have given them a room to prepare for themselves dose to their master and mistress so that they can be on call as necessary. Figaro helps the ladies to prove to the Count that his wife is totally faithful and, in the end, to reconcile them. Arias: Non piu andrai ("No more will you go"); Aprite un po' quegli occhi ("Open your eyes for a moment"). 

Non piu andrai (Le nozze di Figaro) - Bryn Terfel

COUNTESS ALMAVIVA: Soprano. Rosina, Countess Almaviva. She is, of course, the Rosina of Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, now married to her Count. She feels very unhappy because of neglect by her husband. He suspects her of having an affair with a younger man, to which he objects, while at the same time he attempts to seduce other giris, especially her maid Susanna. The Countess plots witfi Susanna to teach him a lesson. In a complicated garden scene, she swaps clothes witfi Susanna and the Count accuses her of a relationship with Figaro. When the truth dawns, he has to apologize to her and they are reconciled. Arias: Porgi amor... ("Grant, love..."), Dove sono i bei momenti ("Where are the golden moments"). Created (1785) by Lucia Laschi.

KIRI TE KANAWA "PORGI AMOR" from "Le Nozze di Figaro" 2004

SUSANNA : Soprano. Countess Almaviva's maid, about to marry Figaro, the Count's valet. They will live in rooms near dieir master and mistress, but Susanna knows the Count wants to seduce her. She plots with the Countess to catch him out in his amorous adventures. Aria: Deh vieni, non tardar ("Соше now, do not delay"); duet (with Countess): Che soave zeffiretto ("What a gentle little breeze"). Created (1786) by Nancy Storace. 

Le Nozze di Figaro: 'Deh vieni non tardar' (Mirella Freni)

DR. BARTOLO : Bass. Previous guardian of Rosina, now the Countess Almaviva. He turns out to be Figaro's father and agrees to many the mother of his son, Marcellina. Aria: La vendetta ("Revenge"). Created (1786) by Francesco Bussani.

Kurt Moll: Mozart - Le nozze di Figaro, 'La vendetta, oh, la vendetta'

MARCELLINA : Soprano (but more often sung by mezzo). Housekeeper to Dr Bartolo. Although twice Figaro's age, she wants to compel him to marry her to repay a loan and in this she is aided by Bartolo wants to get his own back on Figaro for having helped Almaviva abduct Rosina, Bartolo's ward. She realizes later that Figaro is her long-lost son, of whom Bartolo is the father. Created (1786) by Maria Mandini.

Jacqueline Dark sings Marcellina's Aria 

CHERUBINO : Soprano, or mezzo. Travesti role. A youth infatuated with the Countess Almaviva and sent to join the anny by the Count. He jumps out of the Countess's bedroom window to avoid being discovered by the Count and his escape is noticed by the gardener, Antonio, who complains to the Count about his damaged plants below the window. Cherubino is loved by Barbarina (Antonio's daughter). Arias: Non so piu ("I no longer know...") Voi che sapete ("You who know").

Cherubino's first aria. Cecilia Bartoli, Mezzosoprano.

DON BASILIO: Tenor. The music-teacher. Aria (usually omitted): In quegl'anni, in cui val poco... (("ln those years wrihen reason, little practised"). A famous Russian Basilio was Igor Stravinsky's father, Fyodor Stravinsky. Created (1786) by Michael Kelly.

In quegli anni in cui val poco (Le nozze di Figaro, Aria di Basilio, Atto IV) - Tenore Ugo Benelli, 1992

ANTONIO : Baritone. The Almavivas' gardener, father of Barbarina and uncle of Susanna. He sees Cherubino escape from the Countess's bedroom by jumping through the window. Created (1786) by Francesco Bussani.

BARBARINA : Soprano. Daughter of the gardener Antonio and cousin of Susanna. In love with Gherubino. Responsible for delivering a note, supposedly arranging an assignation with Susanna, to Count Almaviva. Aria: L'ho perduta, me meschina! ("I have lost it, unhappy me!"). A role in which many sopranos have first made their mark. Created (1786) by Anna Gottlieb (aged 12!).

Le Nozze di Figaro-L'ho Perduta...Me Meschina! 

DON CURZIO:  Tenor. Counsellor at law. Created (1786) by Michael Kelly.



Originally, Mozart had considered an overture for this opera in the conventional Italian form, that is, a slow section sandwiched between two fast ones. But he discarded the slow section—even a slow introduction—and presented a swiftly moving, scampering little masterpiece just as tuneful as the opera itself and consistently high-spirited. It is a perfect piece of mood-setting.


The opera begins with a duet between Figaro and Susanna. These are the two who are going to be married-according to the title of the opera. Both servants in the household of the Count Almaviva, they are preparing the room they are to occupy after the wedding. Figaro, it seems, is delighted with the room. But Susanna points out to him that the Count has shown her some interesting attentions—and that the room is very close to his. Thus challenged, the witty Figaro sings his aria Se vuol ballare, Signor Contino, that is, wIf you wish to go dancing, my little Count, go right to it; but I'll play the tune.”

Now a new pair of characters comes on—Dr. Bartolo and his housekeeper Marcellina. The doctor does not like Figaro on account of some past disfavors received; Marcellina, on the other hand, wants to marry the young man even though she is old enough to be his mother. In fact, she has lent him money and received in exchange a guarantee that he will marry her if it is not repaid. The dialogue between them ends with an aria by Dr. Bartolo (La vendetta) in which the old fellow swears to get even with Figaro. But before Marcellina leaves, she meets her rival, Susanna, and gets roundly trounced in a polite exchange of unpleasantries.

When the defeated Marcellina retires, we are introduced to one of the most charming characters in any opera. This is

the young page Cherubino, who is perpetually in love with one girl or another—and it has got him into quite a mess, the Count having threatened him with dismissal for overzealous flirtation. He confides in Susanna and then sings his quick little aria Non so piu cosa son. This expresses perfectly the breathless delights and bewilderments of half-baked crushes, his latest being on the Countess herself.

But now the Count comes on, and Cherubino must hide himself. The Count's advances to Susanna are, in turn, interrupted by Don Basilio, the music master, and the Count also hides. Basilio is little better than a common gossip, and what the Count overhears makes him step forward from his hiding place, for Basilio has been saying that Cherubino is too attentive to the Countess. As the Count relates Cherubino's recent adventures with Barbarina, the gardener's daughter, he discovers the young flirt himself—and a fine concerted number follows.

Presently Figaro re-enters with a group of peasants, singing a song in praise of the Count. The Count, of course, must receive them graciously, and peace is at least temporarily restored. Then, when the peasants have left, the Count gives Cherubino a commission in his regiment. This, he hopes, is a way to get rid of the young nuisance. And the act closes as Figaro, in the mock military aria, Non piu andrai, ironically congratulates Cherubino on his impending military career.


In her room the Countess Almaviva is singing unhappily of the lost love of her husband, the Count. The aria is the lovely Porgi amor. This is followed by a sort of conference between the Countess, Susanna, and Figaro, all of whom wish to make the Count behave better—that is, to leave Susanna in peace and to pay more attention to his wife. Susanna, they decide, is to write a note to the Count inviting him to meet her alone at night in the garden. But the page boy Cherubino, disguised as a woman, is to keep the appointment. Tlien the Countess is to surprise them, and thus they hope to embarrass the Count into behaving more to their liking. Cherubino himself comes in (for he has not yet joined his regiment) and sings an utterly charming song he himself has written. It is Voi che sapete—a love song, of course—and Susanna accompanies him on the guitar.

Susanna starts to dress Cherubino up as a woman, but she has diffculties because the young jackanapes tries continually to make love to the Countess.

Suddenly they hear the Count approaching, and Cherubino is hidden in the next room and the door locked. Unfortunately, he stumbles over something; the Count hears the noise; and he demands to know who is in there. When the Countess refuses to open the door, he goes for some tools to break it down, but Susanna saves the day by taking the place of Cherubino, who has jumped out of the window. Thus, when the Count and Countess return, they are dumfounded to find the servant girl behind the door, especially as the Countess has already admitted that CheruDmo was there. A moment later Figaro enters to invite the Count to the wedding festivities but is temporarily nonplussed by the Count's asking him who wrote the anonymous letter. With some dexterous help he manages to extricate himself, but things grow more complicated when the gardener, Antonio, arrives to complain about someone who jumped into his garden from the window of the Countess. The quick-thinking Figaro again almost manages to explain everything with a series of complicated fibs, but the Count is still suspicious.

Finally, to cap the complexities, in come Dr. Bartolo, Don Basilio, and Marcellina. The old woman insists that Figaro must marry her, not Susanna, and the Count announces that he himself will decide this matter later on. The act closes with a remarkable ensemble in which everyone comments at the same time on this very complicated situation.


Scene 1 finds the Count badly confused by everything that has happened. But Susanna soon comes in and, in an exquisite duet (Crudel, реrche finora), assures him that she will do exactly as he wishes. (Of course, she does not really mean this, but the Count does not know it—yet.) Then there follows a sort of comic trial scene. Don Curzio, a local man of the law, has decided that Figaro must many Marcellina on account of the promise he made in writing at the time he borrowed money from her. Figaro, of course, protests, saying that he needs the consent of his unknown paraits. In the course of the argument he mentions a birthmark on his right arm. And the trial ends in a triumph of comedy, for that birthmark proves who the parents of Figaro really are. His mother is none other than—Marcellina herself And the father? Marcellina's co-conspirator, Dr. Bartolo! In the midst of the family reunion, Susanna enters to find her йапсё, Figaro, in the arms of her supposed rival. At first she is furious; but when she is told that Marcellina is no longer a rival, but her own future mother-in-law, there is a delightful sextet to end the scene.

Scene 2 begins with a brief and jolly discussion, in which it is decided that Marcellina and Dr. Bartolo shall be wedded the same day as Figaro and Susanna.

The whole tone of the music changes as the Countess Al- maviva sings her second sad soliloquy, the beautiful Dove sonor in which she again laments Ihe lost days of her love. But when her maid Susanna enters, she Dnghtens up and dictates a letter for Susanna to write. This confirms the maid’s assignation in the park with the Count which the disguised Cherubmo is to keep instead of Susanna. This Letter Duef, with the two feminine voices first echoing each other, and then joining together, is of a sweetness that with any lesser composer must have descended into saccharinity.

Now everyone comes on the stage—including the chorus— to prepare for the marriage festivities of the evening. A group of peasant girls offers flowers to the Countess, and m the group is the page boy Cherubino, disguised as a girl. The irate gardener, Antonio, spots him and pulls off ms wig. He is about to be punished, when the peasant girl Barbarina steps forward. She reminds the Count that he promised her anything she wished—and she now wishes to be married to Cherubino. Now there is dancing to some stately Spanish ballet music, and in the middle of it the Count receives and opens Susanna's letter. Figaro, who does not know about this part of the plot, notices this and becomes suspicious too. But the whole scene ends with rejoicing by everyone as the happy couples are about to be married.


A great many things happen rather quickly in the last act, and the musical numbers fairly trip over each other's heels. It takes place M night in the garden of the Count's estate, and the first music heard is Barbarina's worried little aria about losing a pin that Susanna is sending to the Count. Figaro discovers her secret—and his suspicions about his bride and his master are confirmed. Then the music master, Don Basilio, makes some ironical comments to Dr. Bartolo on the subject, and these are followed by Figaro's great aria, Aprite un po' quegl' occhi, in which he warns all men against the machinations of women. Finally, there is sung another great aria, Deh vieni, non tardar, in which Susanna ecstatically sings about her approaching love. Figaro overbears this and it makes him still more jealous.

Now Susanna and the Countess exchange costumes, and the action speeds up swiftly and furiously. The page boy Cherubino starts to make love to the Countess (thinking ber at first to be Susanna). The Count, coming to his own rendezvous with Susanna, sends the boy packing-and starts to make love too. (He is, of course, wooing his own wife, but he does not know it.) And Figaro starts to make love to Susanna (his own wife, disguised as the Countess), much to her chagrin. He has, however, really penetrated the disguise, and after he has enjoyed her anger, they have a fine time making things up.

At the end the Count is shown up as having made a fool of himself. In a noble melody he begs pardon of his wronged and neglected lady, and the opera ends on a wholesome note of rejoicing by everyone.

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