Synopsis: Le Nozze di Figaro

April 17, 2006

Premiered at the Burgtheater in Vienna on May 1, 1786.

Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Libretto written by Lorenzo da Ponte after the play Le Mariage de Figaro by Pierre Beaumarchais.

The Estate of Count Almaviva near Seville

Figaro, the Count’s valet, and Susanna, the Countess’s maid, are preparing for their wedding. Figaro learns from Susanna that the Count has designs on her and plans to reinstate the feudal practice of droit du seigneur (the right of the master to sleep with his female servant on her wedding night). The Count recently denounced the practice.

Marcellina, the former governess, has given Figaro a loan with the stipulation that if he cannot repay he must marry her. She plans to reclaim her due. Doctor Bartolo serves as her counsel.

Cherubino, the Countess's page, arrives. The Count has caught him with the gardener's daughter Barbarina and is furious. He tells Susanna that he falls in love easily and that he is also infatuated with the Countess. He hides as the Count enters to compel Susanna to meet him in the garden.

Basilio, the Count's music master and a notorious gossip, is approaching, prompting the Count to hide. Basilio’s gossip about Cherubino’s infatuation with the Countess quickly brings the Count out of hiding. He soon discovers the page whose punishment is postponed by the arrival of Figaro with the entire household.

Figaro announces to the group how wonderful the Count is for having dispensed with the droit du seigneur.  It is a failed attempt to get the Count to publicly promise to let Susanna enter marriage unblemished.

The Count grants the page an officer's commission in order to send him away.

The Countess's bedroom

The Countess is lamenting the state of her marriage when Susanna enters. Susanna confirms that the Count has designs on her. She also mentions that Figaro has a plan to thwart the Count’s advances.

The Count will be led to believe that he is meeting Susanna in the garden. But Cherubino, disguised as a woman, will be there in her place.

Susanna proceeds to help Cherubino change into costume. She then leaves the Countess and Cherubino alone. They are interrupted by the approach of the Count returning early from his hunt. The page hides in the dressing room.

The Count, hearing noises coming from the locked dressing room, becomes suspicious. The Countess says that it is only Susanna. Susanna, meanwhile, has secretly crept back into the bedroom and is eavesdropping on the conversation. The Count takes his wife with him to find a tool with which to break into the room.

Susanna frantically lets the page out of the dressing room. He then jumps from the balcony window to safety. Susanna shuts herself into the dressing room in his place.

The Count and Countess return. The Count is convinced of his wife’s guilt. She confesses that the page is in fact in the dressing but that she and he are innocent.

When the Count opens the door, Susanna emerges to the surprise of both the Count and the Countess. The Countess now has the upper hand. But the tables quickly turn when Figaro arrives and the Count questions him.

To make matters worse, the gardener bursts in. He is angry because a man has jumped from the window into his flowers. Figaro claims that it was he who jumped and, for good measure, throws in a story of how Cherubino's commission came to be beneath the balcony. Marcellina arrives demanding a trial for Figaro’s loan default.

A Hall in the Count’s Estate

Susanna goes to the Count, prodded by the Countess, to tell him that she consents to meeting him in the garden. The Countess and Susanna have devised a new plan: the Countess will meet him in the garden disguised as Susanna. As Susanna leaves, she runs into Figaro. The Count overhears their whispers and grows suspicious.

Figaro pleads his case against Marcellina. The magistrate rules against him. He will have to marry Marcellina. In a last ditch effort, Figaro says he must secure the approval of his parents whom he has not seen since he was a child. The story of his separation from his parents leads all to believe that Marcellina is Figaro’s mother and that Doctor Bartolo is his father.

Susanna comes running in and sees Figaro with Marcellina. She believes they have already been married. Marcellina tells her that she is his mother. They decide to have a double wedding – Marcellina and the Doctor Bartolo, Figaro and Susanna.

Barbarina disguises Cherubino as a peasant girl to hide him from the gardener and the Count.  The disguised Cherubino is discovered among a group of girls bearing flowers for the Countess. Barbarina pleads on his behalf, exposing some embarrassing details of the Count’s dealings with her. Cherubino is pardoned.

The Countess and Susanna draft a letter to the Count confirming the meeting in the garden. They use the Countess’s hairpin to seal the envelope. During the wedding celebration, Susanna slips the letter to the Count who pricks his finger on the pin.

Act IV
The Gardens

In the moonlight, Barbarina is looking for the pin the Count gave her to return to Susanna. It is the same pin used to seal the letter. Marcellina and Figaro arrive. With little prompting, Barbarina tells Figaro of the Count’s meeting with Susanna. Marcellina believes in Susanna's innocence and runs off to warn her.

Figaro has brought Doctor Bartolo, Basilio and others with him. They hide in the darkness. Figaro is now alone agonizing over the thought of Susanna with the Count.

Susanna arrives with the Countess. They are disguised as each other. Susanna knows that Figaro is lurking in the garden and plans to play him for a bit.

Cherubino is searching for Barbarina and comes across the disguised Countess who he thinks is Susanna. The Count chases him away. The Count then makes advances toward the woman he thinks is Susanna (actually the disguised Countess) while Figaro watches. The Countess slips away with the Count in pursuit.

Susanna (disguised as the Countess) appears. Figaro sees through the deception and they are reconciled. However, the Count believes he is seeing his wife with Figaro and summons everyone to hear him accuse his wife.

Just as it seems things will snowball out of control, the real Countess steps forward. The Count is undone. He asks for the Countess’s forgiveness, which she freely and lovingly gives.

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