Music by W.A. Mozart
Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte
April 24, 26, 30, May 2, 2014, at 8 pm
Matinée May 4 at 2:30 pm
In Italian with English Surtitles
The performance is approximately 2 hours, 50 minutes, including one intermission.
Through the Revolving Doors: CTV Vancouver Island's Adam Sawatsky previews The Marriage of Figaro.
Island Arts and Entertainment begins after a 15-second commercial. The opera preview begins about 2 minutes, 54 seconds into the program.
A riotous comedy with a revolutionary subtext, The Marriage of Figaro follows the Almaviva household through a single tumultuous day as Count Almaviva, his wife, his valet Figaro, and his servants spin a tangled web of love affairs, plots, and counterplots. The opera is based on the Beaumarchais play that caused an uproar in 18th century France for its subversive portrayal of uppity servants outwitting their aristocratic betters.
The opera charges along like Upstairs, Downstairs on steroids as the predatory Count tries to seduce Figaro's fiancée Susanna on her wedding day. But even as the Count receives his comeuppance, the opera becomes a poignant study of love, jealousy, and ultimate forgiveness.
Mozart's score is an absolute masterpiece, at once sunny and sublime, unrivalled for beauty, grace, and theatrical truth.
A Co-production with Calgary Opera
Watch for bios and photos, coming soon.
In the first installment of Beaumarchais' trilogy, The Barber of Seville, Count Almaviva (disguised at first as a poor student) woos Rosina and marries her under the nose of her guardian, Dr. Bartolo, who had hoped to marry her himself. The count is aided by Figaro, a barber whose profession enabled him to know exactly what was going on in every house in Seville. Among Dr. Bartolo's associates were Rosina's chaperone Marcellina (formerly the doctor's mistress), and her malicious singing teacher Don Basilio.
The Marriage of Figaro
On the morning of their wedding day Susanna (maid to Countess Almaviva) and Figaro (the Count's manservant) are in a room in the Count's castle near Seville. Susanna reveals that the Count has designs on her and Figaro determines to thwart his master's aims.
Next we meet Marcellina and Bartolo. Figaro is in debt to Marcellina and has promised to marry her if the loan is not repaid by this very day. Bartolo rejoices in the idea of forcing Figaro to marry his old housekeeper.
Meanwhile, the amorous young page Cherubino tells Susanna that he is to be sent away; the Count has caught him misbehaving with Barbarina, the gardener's daughter. Hearing the Count approaching, Cherubino hastily conceals himself. The Count enters and expresses his desire for Susanna, but they hear Don Basilio's voice; now the Count is also forced to hide. Basilio describes in detail the castle gossip about Cherubino's crush on the Countess; this infuriates the Count, who reveals his presence. During a trio, the Count reenacts his recent discovery of Cherubino's misbehavior with Barbarina – only to discover the page once more hiding in a lady's chamber. He angrily orders Cherubino off to the military, and the act ends as Figaro lightheartedly teases Cherubino about the rigours of military life.
The Countess mourns the fading of her husband's love. Susanna and Figaro enter. A plot is hatched to distract the Count from his pursuit of Susanna: Cherubino, dressed in Susanna's clothes, will be sent to meet the Count in the garden at dusk. Figaro leaves, and Cherubino enters. He sings a love song he has written, then submits to being dressed as a girl.
Hearing a knock on the door Cherubino hides in a dressing-room; the jealous, suspicious Count enters and accuses his wife of having a lover concealed. The Countess maintains that only Susanna is there, so the Count goes to fetch tools with which to break the door down, taking his wife with him and locking the only escape route. Susanna then releases Cherubino, who escapes out of the window; she takes Cherubino's place in the dressing-room. The Count and Countess return, and Susanna demurely steps out of her hiding place; the Count, baffled (as is the Countess), can only apologize to his wife.
Figaro enters to gather everyone for the wedding, followed by Antonio the gardener, who complains noisily about flowers that were damaged by a man jumping out the window. Figaro, immediately understanding the situation, claims that he was the jumper and starts to limp as proof. Marcellina enters with Dr Bartolo and Basilio to insist that Figaro marry Marcellina as a legal promise for his unpaid debt. The act ends in confusion.
Susanna assures the Count she is prepared to comply with his desires (with the promised dowry, she figures she can pay off Marcellina and marry Figaro). But the Count overhears her remark to Figaro that "our case is won" and is furious to think that his servant can enjoy what is not available to himself. So after a short trial he decrees (as the ruling lord) that Figaro must pay up or marry Marcellina. But he loses his two allies when it becomes clear that Figaro, a foundling, is in fact Marcellina's long-lost son; further, Bartolo is his father. The wedding, Marcellina and Bartolo decide, must now be a double one.
The plot to ensnare the Count continues, as the Countess dictates to Susanna a letter making an assignation. They seal it with a pin, to be returned in answer. A group of peasant girls, led by Barbarina and including the disguised Cherubino, come to bring flowers to the Countess. Figaro urges that the party and dancing should begin. During the festivities Susanna slips a note to the Count, who (observed by Figaro) pricks his finger while opening it.
Barbarina, in the darkness of the garden, has lost the pin the Count asked her to give to Susanna. She confides in Figaro, who believes the worst of Susanna but hides himself as she and the Countess enter, having exchanged clothes.
Now "Susanna" (the Countess in disguise) awaits the Count, who arrives to escort her into an arbour. Seeing "the Countess" (Susanna), Figaro advises her that the Count is with Susanna; in her response, she forgets to disguise her voice, and the truth dawns on him. The two act a charade for the returning Count who is enraged to discover (as he thinks) Figaro and his wife expressing passionate love. The Count summons all and sundry to witness his wife's flagrant infidelity. All beg him to forgive her, but he is adamant – until the true Countess's voice joins the ensemble. At once he realizes what he has done, and kneels to ask her forgiveness; she cannot withhold it. All go joyfully to banqueting and fireworks.
The Marriage of Figaro
Libretto of the Opera in Italian
Libretto of the Opera in English
Scores of the Opera: including full scores, vocal scores, arrangements and transcriptions.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Overview of Mozart's life and work, with many links for further exploration.
Let's Go Mozart!: Teacher's Resource Kit from Canada’s National Arts Centre.
Lorenzo Da Ponte
Nights At the Opera: The life of the man who put words to Mozart, an article for The New Yorker by Joan Acocella. This is a lively discussion of Da Ponte's life and a review of several recent biographies of the librettist of The Marriage of Figaro.
In late-eighteenth-century opera, because advancement depended so heavily on patronage, the backstage was normally a snake pit. Mozart, in his letters, complained repeatedly that Salieri was trying to sabotage his work, and he was right. Salieri came to hate Da Ponte, too. They were competitors for power in the Burgtheater, as were their respective mistresses, both leading singers in the house.
The phoenix, an article in The Guardian by Da Ponte biographer Anthony Holden.
When one of the first Italian operas was performed in New York in 1825, he had the nerve to claim he had written it. He had, so he said, known Mozart. Not to mention Casanova.
... Like the memoirs he had recently written, to pay off more debts, the old man was so full of tall stories ... The many lives of Lorenzo da Ponte – librettist of Mozart's three great operas, The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni and Così Fan Tutte – begin in Venice and hurtle eventfully across Europe before winding up in New York, where today he lies buried in the world's largest cemetery, beneath the flight path into JFK Airport.
Wikipedia article on Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais : Meet the harp teacher, gun-runner, and watchmaker, who created three plays featuring Figaro, the wily barber turned valet.
How to stage a revolution: Article on Beaumarchais by Michael Billington, Theatre Critic for The Guardian. Beaumarchais, the dramatist behind The Marriage of Figaro and The Barber of Seville, was more than a mere playwright – he shaped the 18th century.
Beaumarchais and the American Revolution: The CIA Website details Beaumarchais' exploits as an international secret agent who shipped guns to American Revolutionaries.
La Folle Journée ou le Mariage de Figaro by Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (in French). This is the controversial play on which the opera by Mozart and Da Ponte was based.
The Marriage of Figaro (or the Follies of a Day) by Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (English Translation).
Introduction to Opera Voices
ARIA ELITE: A Unique Evening at the Opera for Young Professionals
Saturday, April 26
TAKE THE OPERA BUS: to the Sunday Matinée on May 4. Bus runs from the Saanich Peninsula and Up-Island.
Wingate Studio, 925 Balmoral Road
250-382-1641 or .
Portrait of Mozart, painted by his brother-in-law, Joseph Lange, sometime between 1782 and 1789.
Detail from a portrait of Lorenzo Da Ponte c.1830, by Samuel B. Morse, co-inventor of Morse Code and the Telegraph.
Detail of a bronze statue of Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais by Louis Clausade. It stands at the crossroad of the Rue Saint-Antoine and the Rue des Tournelles in Paris.