|Composer||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart|
|Librettist||Lorenzo Da Ponte|
|Date of Premier||May 1, 1786|
|Number of Acts||Four|
|Music Length||Three Hours|
Widely considered one of the greatest opera’s ever written, The Marriage of Figaro (Italian: Le Nozze di Figaro) was the first of three world-renown opera’s collaborated on by composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. It is packed with hit after hit song, and is truly a masterpiece of the opera world.
The rather humorous opera tells how the servants Figaro and Susanna succeed in getting married despite the efforts of others to stop the wedding. Love, humor, revenge, and disguises all play a huge role in this opera all to the amazingly unforgettable compositions by Mozart.
Who are the main characters in the marriage of figaro?
The main characters in The Marriage of Figaro include;
- Figaro – The Count’s Valet
- Susanna – His Fiance, and Maid of the Countess
- Count Almaviva
- Countess Almaviva
- Cherubino – A young page boy
For full Opera roles, see below
What is the story of the Marriage of Figaro?
The Marriage of Figaro is about the wedding day of Figaro and Susanna, two workers in Count Almaviva’s home. The opera begins with Figaro and Susanna settling into their new room that the Count has gifted to them. Susanna proclaims the only reason the Count hasbeen so generous is to keep her close, as he plans to seduce her.
Figaro takes this as a challenge, and vows to outwit the Count. Susanna, the Countess and the page boy Cherubino plot a wily plan to ensnare him through disguises, mix-ups, and a lot of hide-and-seek!
- Count Almaviva, a nobleman (baritone)
- Countess Rosina, the count’s wife (soprano)
- Figaro, the count’s valet (baritone)
- Susanna, the countess’s maid and Figaro’s betrothed (soprano)
- Cherubino, a page (mezzo-soprano)
- Doctor Bartolo, a physician (bass)
- Marcellina, Bartolo’s housekeeper (mezzo-soprano)
- Don Basilio, a music master (tenor)
- Antonio, a gardener (bass)
- Barbarina, Antonio’s daughter (soprano)
- Don Curzio, a lawyer (tenor)
Musical Numbers – Act 1
- “Cinque… dieci… venti” (Duet): Figaro measures space in a bedroom while Susanna works on her wedding veil
- “Se a caso madama la notte ti chiama” (Duet): Susanna worries about the new room being so close to the Count’s room
- “Se vuol ballare signor contino” (Aria): Figaro sings of his determination to ensnare the Count
- “La vendetta” (Aria): Bartolo sings of his support of Marcellina as her lawyer to help take down Figaro
- “Via resti servita, madama brillante” (Duet): Susanna and Marcellina exchange sarcastic insults
- “Non so più cosa son” (Aria): Cherubino sings of his infatuation with women
- “Cosa sento!” (Trio): The Count angrily recounts him finding Cherubino in Barbarina’s room
- “Non più andrai” (Aria): Figaro mockingly speaks to Cherubino about his new position in the military
Musical Numbers – Act 2
- “Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro” (Aria): The countess laments the unfaithfulness of her husband
- “Voi che sapete che cosa è amor” (Aria): Cherubino sings the song he wrote for the Countess
- “Venite, inginocchiatevi” (Aria): Susanna teaches Cherubino how to behave like a woman
- “Susanna, or via, sortite” (Trio): The Count and Countess argue about who is hiding in the closet while Susanna hides from them
- “Aprite, presto, aprite” (Duet): Cherubino comes out from his hiding spot, Susanna replaces him, vowing to make the Count look foolish
- “Esci omai, garzon malnato” (Finale): The climax of confusion and finger-pointing in the Countesses’ room
Musical Numbers – Act 3
- “Crudel! perchè finora” (Duet): Susanna get’s the count to agree to meet her in the Garden
- “Riconosci in questo amplesso” (Sextet): Marcellina, Bartolo and Figaro, and Susanna agree to have a double-wedding
- “Dove sono i bei momenti” (Aria): The countess mulls over her unhappiness
- “Sull’aria … che soave zeffiretto” (Duet): The Countess and Susanna plot against the Count
- “Ecco la marcia” (Finale)
Musical Numbers – Act 4
- “L’ho perduta, me meschina” (Aria): Barbarina loses the Pin she was supposed to give to Susanna
- “Il capro e la capretta” (Aria): Marcellina sings about males and females getting along well as wild beasts, but not as rational humans
- “In quegli anni” (Aria): Basilio tells a precautionary tale about crossing powerful people
- “Tutto è disposto … Aprite un po’ quegli occhi” (Aria): Figaro sings of women’s inconsistencies
- “Deh vieni non tardar” (Aria): Susanna’s love song sang to tease Figaro (who believes she’s singing for the Count)
- “Pian pianin le andrò più presso”
- “Pace, pace, mio dolce tesoro” (Duet): Susanna and Figaro make peace
- “Gente, gente, all’armi, all’armi”: The Count calls for his guards and weapons
Full Synopsis – Act 1
In a partially-furnished room, Figaro tinkers with measuring space in the room while Susanna is happily trying on a wedding veil that she made herself (“Cinque, dieci, venti” – “Five, ten, twenty”). They are to have a wedding, and Figaro reveals that the Count has been kind enough to gift them a bed and he’s measuring to see if the bed will fit in the new room. Susanna is taken aback to learn this will be the room they are staying in. She is displeased with how close it is to the Count’s room, as he has been constantly making advances towards her, and plans to exercise his right to primae noctis (the right to sleep with a servent girl on her wedding night). The Count abolished this rule, but is considering reinstating it. (“Se a caso madama la notte ti chiama” – “If the Countess should call you during the night”).
https://www.youtube.com/embed/kY9gSwBWj6E?feature=oembed“Cinque, dieci, venti” and “Se a caso madama la notte ti chiama” performed at the London Philharmonic
Susanna runs to the Countess at the ring of a bell, leaving Figaro alone where he takes the Count’s plan as a challenge, and one that he is confident with some careful planning and scheming he will win! (“Se vuol ballare signor contino” – “If you want to dance, sir count”).
https://www.youtube.com/embed/eeUNtzrsJJI?feature=oembed“Se vuol ballare signor contino” (2:45) performed in 1976
After Figaro departs the room, Dr. Bartolo and Marcellina enter. Marcellina immediately begins to tell of her plan to exact an old debt, in which Figaro must marry her. She also plans to make the count angry with them, so that he will support her. Dr. Bartolo also plans to support her as her lawyer, wanting to exact revenge on Figaro for his own reasons (“La vendetta” – “Vengeance”).
https://www.youtube.com/embed/va6EVm5dZfc?feature=oembed“La Vendetta” performed by Kurt Moll in 1980
After singing of his expected victory, he leaves Marcellina alone for a moment before Susanna returns. They begin to exchange sarcastic compliments, with Susanna finally making Marcellina angry by “complementing” on her age (“Via resti servita, madama brillante” – “After you, brilliant madam”). Angered, Marcellina storms out.
https://www.youtube.com/embed/_jI4zhMHrx8?feature=oembed“Via resti servita, madama brillante” performed by Alison Hagley and Wendy Hillhouse at the London Philharmonic
The distraught Cherubino then enters the room, proclaiming his burning love for all women, but the Countess in particular, who has made him particularly lovesick (“Non so più cosa son” – “I don’t know anymore what I am”).
https://www.youtube.com/embed/Fe4Vpm8DpH0?feature=oembed“Non so più cosa son” performed by Isabel Leonard
Cherubino reveals that the Count has been angry after finding him with the Gardener’s daughter (Barbarina), and is going to severely punish him. Cherubino wants Susanna to putin a good word with the Countess to spare him from punishment. At that moment the Count is heard nearing the bedroom. Cherubino hides behind the chair before the Count enters the room under the impression he is alone with Susanna. He begins to move close to her and tells her he will pay to have time in the garden with her. Soon after, Basilio, the music teacher is heard. Not wanting to be found alone in Susanna’s room, the Count looks for a hiding place as Cherubino runs from his. Not seeing Cherubino, the Count takes the hiding spot behind the chair, and Cherubino hides on the chair covered by a sheet.
Basilio begins to tease Susanna, and mentions that she saw Cherubino hanging around. He then warns that Cherubino between be careful when looking at the Countess, otherwise the Count will get angry, adn that everybody knows Cherubino is in love with the Countess. The Count bursts from his hiding place in a rage (“Cosa sento!” – “What do I hear!”).
https://www.youtube.com/embed/A9uBt1v9fOQ?feature=oembed“Cosa sento!” performed at the IU Jacobs School of Music in 2019
Susanna asserts that these are all just lies about Cherubino, but the count begins to explain how he caught him (again) in Barbarina’s room. As he demonstrates how he found him by pulling back a table cloth, he pulls the sheet from the chair exposing Cherubino from his hiding place. The Count is furious, but realizes that while hiding Cherubino has overheard his words to Susanna, which he wishes to remain a secret form the countess.
Peasants then flood the room to celebrate the upcoming wedding. Figaro jumps in and applauds the Count for abolishing the feudal right to bed a servant girl on the night of her wedding. Figaro offers the Count to performing a ceremony that would ensure she enters the marriage untouched, but the Count sees through this and promises he will perform the ceremony at a later time. He declares he must first make sure all the preparations are in order for a great wedding.
After the peasants leave, Figaro asks why Cherubino isn’t happy, to which Susanna replies that the Count is sending him away. The Count says that Cherubino is forgiven, and will be sent to be an officer in his regiment immedietly. Figaro mocks Cherubino’s upcoming lifestyle change and new role in the military (“Non più andrai” – “No more gallivanting”).
https://www.youtube.com/embed/e1-FKyOTvto?feature=oembed“Non più andrai” performed at the Metropolitan Opera 1985
Full Synopsis – Act 2
We are introduced to the Countess when the curtain rises for act 2. In her room she sings of the pain and torment of having an unfaithful husband (“Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro” – “Grant, love, some comfort”).
https://www.youtube.com/embed/rTsyXi_yZig?feature=oembed“Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro” performed by Annette Dasch in Paris, 2004
Susanna enters to help the Countess get prepared for the day. The Countess questions Susanna about the Count attempting to seduce her, to which Susanna responds he simply offered a “financial proposition”. Figaro enters with a plan to send the Count a letter warning him of the Countess committing adulatory. He hopes this will distract the Count from interfering with the wedding. Figaro also mentions to the Countess that it’s better to keep Cherubino around to dress like a girl to lure in the count and frame him.
The Countess expresses her regret that Cherubino had to hear what the Count said to Susanna. Shortly after Cherubino enters the room and Susanna requests he sings the song he had written for the Countess. (“Voi che sapete che cosa è amor” – “You ladies who know what love is, is it what I’m suffering from?”)
https://www.youtube.com/embed/qMAzppGdWlY?feature=oembed“Voi che sapete che cosa è amor” performed by Marianne Crebassa in Milan, 2016
Following Cherubino’s song, the Countess discovers that the Count was in such a hurry to send Cherubino away that he forgot to add an official seal to Cherubino’s military commision, making them non-official. The Countess and Susanna begin dressing Cherubino like a girl and teaching him to behave like a girl (“Venite, inginocchiatevi” – “Come, kneel down before me”).
https://www.youtube.com/embed/K95IOCOqvv4?feature=oembed“Venite, inginocchiatevi” performed at the final dress rehersal of the Metropolitan Opera’s 2014 production
The Countess discovers a ribbon of hers on Cherubino’s arm (which he stole from Susanna earlier). He had used the ribbon to cover a scratch, and the blood-stained ribbon is held firmly by the countess. She begins to send Susanna off to fetch a new ribbon, and the two, alone, begin flirting. As they are about to kiss, the Count knocks at the door. Panicking, Cherubino hides in the closet.
The Count enters the room and hears a noise from the closet. The Countess explains that it’s just Susanna trying on her wedding dress. The Count demands that Susanna come out (“Susanna, or via, sortite” – “Susanna, come out!”).
https://www.youtube.com/embed/snze3ksr8lY?feature=oembed“Susanna, or via, sortite” performed at the Royal Opera House in 2019
Susanna enters undiscovered by the Count and Countess. She quickly discovers what is going on and takes cover, hiding from them. The Count, angered that The Countess won’t open the door, storm out of the room to fetch tools that will open the door, locking all of the bedroom doors behind him.
With the Count and Countess gone, Susanna and Cherubino rush from their hiding places and talk about the disastrous situation. With all of the doors locked, Cherubino is left with no other option but to leap out of the window into the garden. Susanna puts herself back into the closet, excited to make a fool of the Count (“Aprite, presto, aprite” – “Open the door, quickly!”)
https://www.youtube.com/embed/m8QZSeb_zVY?feature=oembed“Aprite, presto, aprite” performed in Paris, 2004
Panicked and flustered, the Countess admits that they were going to play a small prank, and that it is indeed Cherubino hiding inside of the closet. The furious Count draws his sword, ready to open the closet door and kill Cherubino. The Countess pleads for Cherubino’s life, stating that the Count is in a jealous rage. The Count approaches the closet as Susanna walks out (“Esci omai, garzon malnato” – “Come out of there, you ill-born boy!”).
Susanna and the Countess play it off as a prank to test the Count’s loyalty. He is ashamed with himself for failing the test, and begs the women for forgiveness. The Count does, however, begin asking about the anonymous letter he received tipping him off to the Countesses’ infidelity. Susanna and the Countess reveal that it was Figaro who sent the letter via Basilio.
Figaro arrives, excited that the wedding is starting. The Count stops him though, asking him to explain himself about the letter that was sent to him. Confusion ensues as the women try to tell Figaro that the joke is over, but Figaro continues to say he does not know about the letter. Just as Figaro and the Count begin to come to a dead end, the gardener (Antonio) appears saying he just saw a man jump from the window, ruining his roses. Antonio says he knows for a fact that it was the page boy. Figaro, Susanna and the Countess begin to laugh, claiming that the gardener is mistaken, and that he must be drunk. After some argument, Figaro claims that it was him who jumped out of the window. Antonio presents a paper dropped by the jumper, which the Count asks Figaro to identify. Susanna and the Countess desperately try to signal that the paper is Cherubino’s military consignment, which Figaro eventually positively identifies, stating Cherubino gave it to him because it lacks an official seal. Just as Figaro get’s off the hook, Marcellina, Bartolo, and Basilio storm into the room. They shout that it is time for Figaro to repay his debt to Marcellina. The Count agrees to postpone the wedding until he can investigate further.
Full Synopsis – Act 3
Confused and flustered, the Count mulls over the events that have transpired up until now, from the letters, to Susanna in the closet, to the man jumping out of the window. The Countess enters with Susanna, requesting that Susanna agrees to meet the Count in the Garden, telling her that when the time comes the Countess herself with go instead. Susanna agrees, and tells the count she will meet him in the garden (“Crudel! perchè finora” – “Cruel girl, why did you make me wait so long”).
https://www.youtube.com/embed/-skCmw1_WWw?feature=oembed2001 performance of “Crudel! perchè finora”
The Count is joyous, but it is short-lived, as he overhears Susanna talking to Figaro on the way out, telling him “You have already won the case”. The Count realizes he has fallen into some sort of trap. and vows to force Figaro to marry Marcellina.
Int he following scene Figaro is put on trial, and it is announced that he must marry Marcellina. Figaro claims that he cannot marry without his parents consent. He never knew his parents, however, being taken from them as a small child. After discussion about a birthmark, it is discovered that Figaro is indeed the illegitimate son of Marcellina and Bartolo! They then embrace as mother and son. While the joyous scene unfolds Susanna enters with the debt to pay Marcellina, but finds Figaro and Marcellina in the middle of a touching scene. She mistakenly thinks Figaro has married Marcellina and flies into a rage, slapping Figaro in the face. After Marcellina explains the situation, Susanna calms and the four of them (Bartolo and Marcellina, Figaro and Susanna) all agree to a double-wedding that evening “Riconosci in questo amplesso” – “Recognize in this embrace”.
https://www.youtube.com/embed/w2-q0EPqVA0?feature=oembed“Riconosci in questo amplesso” performed in the Royal Opera House, 2006
Left on the stage after all others leave is Barbarina (the gardener Antonio’s daughter) and Cherubino. Barbarina invites Cherubino back to her house so that they can disguise him as a girl.
The Countess, then alone, sings of the loss of her happiness (“Dove sono i bei momenti” – “Where are they, the beautiful moments”). At the same time, the Count is informed by Antonio that Cherubino has indeed not been dispatched, and is in fact at his home! Susanna enters and updates the Countess on the plan to ensnare the Count. The Countess writes a letter for Susanna to give to the Count that requests he meet her Susanna that night “under the pines”. The letter instructs the Count to return the pin that fastens the letter (“Sull’aria … che soave zeffiretto” – “On the breeze… What a gentle little zephyr”).
https://www.youtube.com/embed/iMvpSHe3lEM?feature=oembed“Sull’aria … che soave zeffiretto” sung by Hillevi Martinpelto(La Contessa) and Alison Hagley (Sussana) with The English Baroque Soloists
Cherubino (disguised as a girl), arrives along with a chorous of peasants to serenade the Countess. The Count arrives with Antonio and, discovering Cherubino, isflies into a rage. His anger is quickly dispelled by Barbarina, who publicly reveals that he had once offered to give her anything she wants in exchange for certain favors, and asks for Cherubino’s hand in marriage. Embarrassed, the Count allows Cherubino to stay.
The act closes with the double-wedding, during the course of which Susanna delivers her letter to the Count (“Ecco la marcia” – “Here is the procession”). Figaro watches the Count prick his finger on the pin, and laughs. As the curtain drops, the two newlywed couples celebrate.
https://www.youtube.com/embed/G1SsXdBRcsw?feature=oembed“Ecco La Marcia” performed at the London Philharmonic
Full Synopsis – Act 4
Act 4 opens with the Count giving the Pin to Barbarina to give to Susanna as instructed. To Barbarina’s dismay, she loses the pin (“L’ho perduta, me meschina” – “I have lost it, poor me”). Figaro and Marcellina encounter Barbarina, who inquire as to what she is doing. Figaro is angered once he sees the Pin that he knows is Susanna’s and recognizes it from the letter the Count was holding in Act 3. Figaro sets out to exact his revenge on Susanna and the Count, who he now believes are seeing each other behind his back. Marcellina urges Figaro to tread lightly, but Figaro is too angered to listen. Marcellina goes to warn Susanna.
Susanna and the Countess arrive in the garden dressed in each other’s clothes. Marcellina is with them, having already told Susanna of Figaro’s plan. After the plan is discussed Susanna is alone in the Garden, and knowing Figaro is hidden behind a bush begins to sing him a love song (“Deh vieni non tardar” – “Oh come, don’t delay”). Beliving she is singing for the Count, Figaro becomes more and more jealous and angry.
https://www.youtube.com/embed/RBQoup3zmgE?feature=oembedSoprano Lisetta Oropesa sings the aria “Deh vieni, non tardar”
Cherubino finds the Susanna (who is really the Countess in disguise) in the garden and begins to tease her.
The Count throws a punch in the dark at Cherubino, but accidentally the hit on Figaro. Cherubino dashes off.
The Count now attempts to make love to “Susanna” (the Countess in disguise), and offers her a ring. They bopth exit the stage. Meanwhile, the real Susanna (in the Countess’ clothes) enters. Figaro, not knowing it is really Susanna, starts to tell her of the Count’s intentions, but he suddenly realizes it is his bride in disguise. He plays along pretending to be in love with “my lady”, and inviting her to make love on the spot. Susanna, fooled, loses her temper and slaps Figaro. He finally revelas that he recognized Susanna’s voice, and they make peace, resolving to conclude the comedy together (“Pace, pace, mio dolce tesoro” – “Peace, peace, my sweet treasure”).
https://www.youtube.com/embed/9fMkZ1NwdAw?feature=oembed“Pace, pace mio dolce tesoro” Recorded at the Queen-Elizabeth Hall
The Count, unable to find who he believes is Susanna, enters flustered. Figaro gets his attention by loudly declaring his love for “the Countess” (really Susanna). The enraged Count calls for his guards and weapons. (“Gente, gente, all’armi, all’armi” – “Gentlemen, to arms!”) Bartolo, Basilio and Antonio enter with torches as the Count pulls Cherubino, Barbarina, Marcellina and the “Countess” out from behind the pavilion.
https://www.youtube.com/embed/XO_0mcFAGHU?feature=oembedGlyndebourne performance of “Gente, gente, all’armi, all’armi”
All beg him to forgive Figaro and the “Countess”, but the Count passionately refuses, until finally the real Countess re-enters and reveals her true identity. The Count, seeing the ring he had given her, realizes that the supposed Susanna he was trying to seduce was actually his wife. He kneels and pleads for forgiveness “Contessa perdono!” – “Countess, forgive me!”. The Countess replies (“Più docile io sono e dico di sì” – “I am more docile [than you], and I say yes”). The entire party sets off for the wedding feast.