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The Marriage of Figaro

(The Marriage of Figaro is a verismo opera, meaning it tells the story of ordinary people rather than aristocrats and great heroes. Its costumes and stage settings generally are more realistic to the times in which it is set, rather than having the sumptuous costumes and scenery of some other operas. The opera also tells the stories of the differences in social classes – the aristocrats and the middle and working classes.)

Act I

A room in the castle of Count Almaviva near Seville, Spain, 1778.

It is Figaro and Susanna’s wedding day. Figaro, the servant of the Count, and Susanna, the maid of the Countess, are measuring the room the Count has given them to use as their bedroom. Susanna dislikes the room, claiming that it is much too close to the rooms of the Count. She then tells Figaro that the Count has his eye on her. The Countess rings and Susanna departs. Figaro resolves that he will thwart his master's plans.

Dr. Bartolo and Marcellina, Bartolo’s housekeeper, enter. Figaro is in debt to Marcellina and has promised to marry her if he doesn't repay her. Bartolo rejoices in this opportunity to avenge himself on Figaro, who arranged the elopement of the Count and Rosina (the Countess), whom Bartolo had hoped to marry himself. As Bartolo exits, Susanna enters and has a brief, barbed encounter with Marcellina, who then departs.

Cherubino, the Count's flirtatious page, dashes in. He explains that the Count discovered him with Barbarina, the daughter of the gardener Antonio, and he will be sent away. He states that he is in love with the Countess as well as every other woman in the palace and asks Susanna to give a song to the Countess. They hear the Count approaching, so Cherubino hides behind an armchair. The Count, thinking that he is alone with Susanna, begins making advances to her until he is interrupted by the arrival of Don Basilio, the music teacher. He conceals himself behind the same chair as Cherubino, who has now moved to the other side and covered himself with a blanket. Basilio gossips about the goings-on in the castle including Cherubino's infatuation with the Countess. The Count becomes angry and reveals himself, discovering Cherubino at the same time. Aware that the boy has overheard his own indiscretions, he vents his anger by giving Cherubino a commission in his Regiment, for which he must leave immediately.

Figaro arrives, carrying Susanna's wedding veil and accompanied by villagers who sing the Count's praises. Figaro thanks the Count for renouncing the wedding-night custom, and asks the Count to give Susanna the veil as a symbol of purity. Count Almaviva says he would prefer to postpone the ceremony until he can celebrate the occasion appropriately. After the villagers leave, both Figaro and Susanna try to persuade the Count to allow Cherubino to stay, but to no avail. Figaro then tells Cherubino about the rigors of military life.

Act II

In the bedroom of the Countess.

The Countess mourns her husband's waning affections towards her. Susanna and Figaro enter and tell the Countess that the Count is trying to seduce Susanna. They devise a plan. The Count will be given a note that says that the Countess is having an affair. While the Count is investigating, Figaro and Susanna will be married quickly. At the same time, they will disguise Cherubino as Susanna and arrange a rendezvous with the Count.

Cherubino arrives and begins trying on his disguise. He sings "Voi che sapete," a love song to the Countess. His commission falls out of his uniform and the Countess notices there is no official seal on it. The Count arrives. Cherubino hides in the dressing room and Susanna hides behind a screen. The Count is suspicious, as he's just received the anonymous letter regarding the Countess' supposed infidelity. Upon hearing a noise, the Count demands to know who is hiding in the dressing room. When the Countess refuses to tell him, he compels her to accompany him to find a hammer to break down the door.

Cherubino jumps out of the window, leaving Susanna to take his place in the dressing room. The Countess tells Almaviva that it is Cherubino who is in her dressing room. The Count demands that the door be opened and Susanna calmly enters the room. The Count searches for Cherubino. Finding no one, Almaviva begs for forgiveness. Antonio, the gardener, bursts in complaining that someone has just jumped out of the window and spoiled his flowers. Susanna and the Countess try to convince the Count that Antonio is drunk again but it is Figaro who assumes the blame, saying that it was he who jumped from the window. Antonio produces some papers that Figaro claims were given him by Cherubino to have officially sealed. Marcellina enters with Dr. Bartolo and Basilio to demand justice. Figaro must marry Marcellina or repay his debt. The Count must investigate.

Act III

A hall in the castle.

The Count reflects on the current situation when Susanna enters. She says she's prepared to meet him later that evening in the garden if he will give her the dowry he had promised. With the dowry, Susanna will be able to pay off Marcellina and marry Figaro. Susanna leaves and meets Figaro and assures him they will win their case. The Count overhears and becomes infuriated that his servants enjoy a happiness that he does not.

Figaro, Marcellina, and Dr. Bartolo join the Count and his notary, Don Curzio, for the judgement: Figaro must marry Marcellina or repay his debt. Figaro protests that he needs the consent of his parents, from whom he was stolen as an infant. Marcellina realizes that Figaro is her long lost son by Dr. Bartolo. As Marcellina and Figaro embrace, it is decided that the wedding will be a double one; Marcellina will marry Dr. Bartolo and Figaro will marry Susanna.

Meanwhile, the Countess is still mourning the loss of her husband's affections. Susanna enters. She tells the Countess of the outcome of Figaro's case and writes a note for Almaviva to wait in the pine grove. They seal the letter with a pin.

Barbarina and the disguised Cherubino, along with other village girls, arrive with flowers for the Countess. The Count enters with Antonio, who reveals that Cherubino was indeed the one who jumped out of the balcony window into his flower bed. The Count wants to punish Cherubino but Barbarina pleads that instead, Cherubino be made her husband. After all, the Count promised her "everything she wanted" in exchange for her affections. The Count agrees.

Figaro enters and the wedding march begins. At the wedding celebration, Susanna passes the note to Almaviva who pricks his finger on the pin. Figaro notices that the Count had received a love letter and is amused by the pin prick. The Count promises splendid entertainment for the evening.

Act IV

The garden of the castle.

Figaro and Marcellina happen upon Barbarina, who is searching for the pin that the Count asked her to return to Susanna. Figaro realizes that it was Susanna who sent the Count the love letter and gives Barbarina one of Marcellina's pins to find out the location of the planned tryst. Figaro complains to Marcellina about Susanna's supposed infidelity and, while Marcellina tries to explain that all is not as it seems, Figaro plans revenge. Both leave.

Barbarina returns, as she has a date with Cherubino, but is frightened by a noise and runs into one of the pavilions. Figaro returns with Bartolo and Basilio as witnesses to his wife's infidelity. Figaro tells them to hide until he gives the signal and then Figaro moves to another part of the garden, still defending the jealousy of men and determining not to trust women.

Marcellina, Susanna, and the Countess enter. Susanna and the Countess have switched clothing. Susanna, aware that Figaro is listening, sings about her approaching happiness with her lover. The Countess (now disguised as Susanna) awaits the planned tryst with the Count. However, Cherubino happens upon her and begins flirting. The Count enters and begins seducing "Susanna." The real Susanna (disguised as the Countess) is confronted by Figaro, who tells her that the Count is with his Susanna. She asks Figaro to be quiet, but forgets to disguise her voice. The truth begins to dawn on Figaro, who then pleads passionate love to the "Countess." A furious Susanna slaps Figaro who tells her that he knew she was in disguise all along. Continuing the prank, Figaro and the "Countess" loudly confess their love and the Count rushes in to catch the two lovers. Basilio, Bartolo, Don Curzio, and Antonio all rush in to investigate the ruckus and the Count denounces his faithless wife. All beg the Count to forgive his wife, but he refuses until the real Countess unveils herself. Almaviva realizes that he has fallen prey to a prank and begs forgiveness. The Countess forgives him and all celebrate the end of a crazy day.

From Arizona Opera online Opera Resource Center


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