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The Marriage of Figaro

The Marriage of Figaro – Mozart

The opera was first performed in Vienna 1786, continuing the plot of the Barber of Seville.

Count Almaviva, now married to Rosina, with Figaro as his head servant is pursuing Susanna who is Figaro’s bride to be (mid-life crisis!) so Figaro is plotting to try and outwit him.   To complicate the plot, Dr Bartolo and Marcellina are trying to stop Figaro marrying until he pays back the money that he owes to Marcellina. He borrowed it saying that if she did not get it back he would marry her.

Cherubino, the Count’s page enters and seeks Susanna’s aid to calm down the Count who has just caught him with the gardener’s daughter Barbarina– he is determined to send him in to the army! The Count suddenly appears and Cherubino hides behind a chair. The count seizes the opportunity, finding Susanna alone, he tries to talk her into sleeping with him, but the music teacher, Basilio, arrives and he quickly hides in the place that Cherubino was hiding but who hid beneath a dress moments before he got there.

Basilio gossips about Cherubino’s fascination with the countess and the Count dashes out from his hiding place in a rage, saying he is fed up with Cherubino and telling how he found him under the table cloth with Barbarina and showing how he lifted the cloth, he lifts the dress that Cherubino is hiding under. Cherubino reminds the Count that he heard what was being said to Susanna, but is still sent to join the Count’s regiment!

The Countess Rosina confides in her maid Susanna that she fears the count is being unfaithful to her and Susanna confesses that he has approached her and even offered her money but that she has a plan to stop him. Figaro has sent an anonymous letter warning of adulterers and suggesting that Rosina might be meeting someone in the garden that night. He suggests that Cherubino is dressed as the Countess and sent to the garden to meet the Count! So they do this and whilst they are dressing Cherubino they hear the Count coming and frantically lock Cherubino in a wardrobe. 

The Count sees her lock the wardrobe and is suspicious, demanding to know what or who is in there,  the Countess says that Susanna is trying on her wedding dress and does not want anyone to see her so he shouts telling her to answer but the Countess tells him not to be silly and to leave them alone. He heads off seeking tools to get into the wardrobe and the Countess follows him trying to calm him down. The Count locks all the doors to the room. As soon as they are gone Susanna and Cherubino swop places and he jumps from the window to escape.

The Count and Countess return and she confesses that it is Cherubino in there so is very surprised when Susanna emerges but quickly recovering her wits says that she was testing the Count trust. He becomes ashamed of his jealousy and apologises. Figaro arrives to see what the commotion is all about and the Count asks where the anonymous letter originated – was it the Countess who had written it? Figaro confesses just as the gardener,

Antonio arrives to complain that somebody has just jumped from the window and destroyed the flowers; he also dropped a letter and he thought that it was Cherubino, Figaro laughs and says that it was himself and he hurt his ankle whilst he was doing it. They all laugh and say that Antonio is becoming a constant drunk and always seeing things and misunderstanding them.

However he has the letter that was dropped and the count snatches it and asks Figaro to tell him what it is – of course he does not know and Susanna and the Countess, stood behind the Count, try to sign to him what the document is and Figaro guesses correctly. However Dr Bartolo and Marcellina arrive demanding payment of the loan or marriage and asking the Count to intervene which, of course, he happily does.

The court convenes and determines that Figaro must return the money or marry Marcellina – he claims that he cannot because he needs his parent’s permission and he does not know who his real parents are, because he was stolen as a baby.

During the ensuing investigations it is revealed that he is actually the illegitimate son of Marcellina and Bartolo, but when Susanna enters the scene and sees him in an embrace with her she misunderstands and slaps Figaro’s face. Bartolo asks for Marcellina’s hand in marriage and they determine to marry with the young couple that night.

Cherubino and Susanna talk to the Countess about the plot to embarrass the Count, and Rosina writes a letter for Susanna to give to the Count and seals it with a small broach which he is told to bring with him when he meets Susanna in the gardens.

The peasants sing to the Countess until the Count appears and he discovers Cherubino still there, but Barbarino intervenes and reveals that the Count had actually made approaches to her himself and asks for Cherubino’s hand in marriage.

Figaro and Susanna are married at last and the Count receives that note with the broach in it. Figaro is unaware of the note and becomes jealous when it is mentioned, and enlists people to help him stop the Count meeting with Susanna. Susanna, who is aware that Figaro is jealous, hides in the dark garden and sings a song for the Count to hurry to love her and Figaro becomes furious.

The Countess arrives in Susanna’s dress and the Count gives her a ring and declares his love for her and they roam off into the darkness where the Countess quickly hides from him. Susanna, dressed in the Countess’ clothes is approached by Figaro who tells her what her husband is up to but suddenly realising that it is Susanna, begins inviting her to make love. Susanna thinking that she has not been recognised, slaps his face again until he confesses that he knows who she is.

Figaro, laughing, loudly declares his love for the Countess and the Count, enraged, calls for arms and torches to search the garden but finding only Cherubino and Barabarina; Marcellian and Susanna and they try to calm him down asking his forgiveness. When the Countess arrives, wearing the ring, he gave to “Susanna” he realises that he has been a fool and he kneels and begs her forgiveness.

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