Saturday, August 1, 2015

Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart)

Our Summer 2015 Friday Blog and Podcasts reach into past musings. Today's post is a repeat of a Once or Twice a Fortnight from September 28, 2012.

Some of the post's content and illustrations were changed to fit this month's thematic arc.

Le nozze di Figaro, ossia la folle giornata (The Marriage of Figaro, or The Day of Madness), K. 492, is an opera buffa in four acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with a libretto in Italian by Lorenzo Da Ponte, based on a stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro.

The Marriage of Figaro is a continuation of the plot of TheBarber of Seville several years later, and recounts a single "day of madness" (la folle giornata) in the palace of the Count Almaviva near Seville, Spain. Rosina is now the Countess; Dr. Bartolo is seeking revenge against Figaro for thwarting his plans to marry Rosina himself; and Count Almaviva has degenerated from the romantic youth of Barber into a scheming, bullying, skirt-chasing baritone. Having gratefully given Figaro a job as head of his servant-staff, he is now persistently trying to obtain the favors of Figaro's bride-to-be, Susanna. He keeps finding excuses to delay the civil part of the wedding of his two servants, which is arranged for this very day. Figaro, Susanna, and the Countess conspire to embarrass the Count and expose his scheming. He responds by trying to compel Figaro legally to marry a woman old enough to be his mother, but it turns out at the last minute that she is really his mother. Through Figaro's and Susanna's clever manipulations, the Count's love for his Countess is finally restored.

The opera was the first of three collaborations between Mozart and Da Ponte (with Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte). It was Mozart who originally selected Beaumarchais's play and brought it to Da Ponte, who turned it into a libretto in six weeks, rewriting it in poetic Italian and removing all of the original's political references - Although Beaumarchais's Marriage of Figaro was at first banned in Vienna because of its licentiousness, Mozart's librettist managed to get the libretto approved by the Emperor, Joseph II. In particular, Da Ponte replaced Figaro's climactic speech against inherited nobility with an equally angry aria against unfaithful wives.


The original OTF post featured a concert performance conducted by Hans Rosbaud - from the MQCD Musique Classique library of Public Domain recordings. For this week's post, I used a more recent studio version, under Sir Georg Solti. As is often the case in my opera posts, I edited this from one of Sean Bianco's oper apodcasts, keeping his spoken introductions.

I  think you will love this music too.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Le nozze di Figaro, K 492
Opera buffa in four acts, libretto in Italian by Lorenzo Da Ponte

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (Countess Almaviva)
Samuel Ramey (Figaro)
Lucia Popp (Susanna)
Frederica Von Stade (Cherubino)
Thomas Allen (Count Almaviva)
London Philharmonic Orchestra,  London Opera Chorus under Sir Georg Solti 

Libretto -
Synopsis -