Go inside this production of The Marriage of Figaro with engaging articles, notes from the director, a complete plot synopsis, artist bios, and more.
It is the wedding day of Figaro, Count Almaviva’s valet, and Susanna, the Countess’s maid. Figaro’s satisfaction with their future quarters turns to apprehension upon hearing from Susanna that the Count has offered them the apartment next to his own, making it easier to press his unwelcome attentions on Susanna (Duettino: Se a caso madama). If the Count wants to dance, he, Figaro, will call the tune (Cavatina: Se vuol ballare).
Marcellina and Bartolo plot to prevent Figaro’s marriage. Eager to marry Figaro herself, Marcellina hopes to enforce the terms of an unpaid loan she had made to him. Bartolo joins her cause, longing to avenge himself for Figaro’s past offenses (Aria: La vendetta). Susanna and Marcellina exchange insults (Duettino: Via resti servita).
Cherubino, the Count’s page, is miserable because the Count dismissed him after catching him in a tête-à-tête with Barbarina, the gardener’s daughter. He confesses to Susanna that he trembles at the sight of any woman (Aria: Non so più cosa son).
When the Count approaches, Cherubino hides and overhears him wooing Susanna. Upon hearing Basilio approach, the Count also hides. Basilio has been acting on the Count’s behalf in his pursuit of Susanna. When Basilio hints that Cherubino is pursuing the Countess, the Count emerges from hiding and demands that the page be dismissed (Trio: Cosa sento?). As he tells how he caught Cherubino hiding at Barbarina’s house, the Count inadvertently uncovers him from yet another hiding place. Immediate reprisals are avoided by Figaro’s appearance with a group of peasants (Chorus: Giovani liete). To save face, the Count awards Cherubino a commission in his own regiment. Figaro sings the praises of military life encouraging the dejected Cherubino (Aria: Non più andrai).
The Countess laments the loss of her husband’s love (Cavatina: Porgi amor). She and Susanna are discussing the morning’s events when Figaro arrives with a plan: They will confuse the Count by sending him an anonymous letter alleging that the Countess is receiving a lover, but meanwhile Susanna will agree to meet the Count in the garden. Attending in Susanna’s place will be Cherubino, disguised as a girl. The Countess will interrupt the tryst and force the Count to withdraw all opposition to Figaro’s marriage.
Cherubino sings a ballad to the Countess and Susanna (Canzonetta: Voi che sapete). The maid dresses him for his role in the plot (Aria: Venite, inginocchiatevi). When the Count knocks on the locked door, Cherubino hides in the closet. The Count is confronting his wife with the letter when a noise issues from the closet. The Countess claims that it is Susanna, but refuses to unlock the door (Trio: Susanna, or via sortite). Accompanied by his reluctant wife, the Count leaves to fetch tools to force the closet door open, locking the boudoir door on his way out. Once the two have left, Cherubino jumps out the window and Susanna takes his place in the closet.
When the closet door opens (Finale: Esci ormai, garzon malnato) Susanna steps out, to the Almavivas’ astonishment. The Count’s suspicions are nearly assuaged, excepting the anonymous letter. The ladies reply that this was Figaro’s little joke, but Figaro arrives and denies any knowledge of it. The Count becomes doubly suspicious when Antonio, the gardener, reports that he saw a man jump out the window, leaving behind a military commission as evidence. Assisted by Basilio and Bartolo, Marcellina attempts to present her case before the Count.
Now with a plan of her own, the Countess orders Susanna to lure the Count to a rendezvous, to be kept by the Countess in disguise. Susanna carries out her mission (Duettino: Crudel, perchè finora). Upon overhearing Susanna whisper to Figaro that they have won their case, the Count vows to punish them both (Aria: Vedrò, mentr’io sospiro). While awaiting Susanna’s reply, the Countess is saddened to be reduced to these intrigues. Recalling happier days (Aria: Dove sono), she vows to change the Count’s heart.
With their lawyer Don Curzio, Marcellina and Bartolo entreat the Count for justice, but Figaro insists that he cannot marry without his parents’ consent. Unfortunately, since he was kidnapped in infancy, their identity remains a mystery to him. A birthmark reveals that Marcellina and Bartolo are the parents (Sextet: Riconosci in questo amplesso). Arriving with money to pay Figaro’s debt, Susanna discovers him embracing Marcellina. Fury turns to joy when Susanna learns the truth – now there will be a double wedding.
The Count learns from Antonio that Cherubino is still in the vicinity. A letter is dictated by the Countess to Susanna (Duettino: Sull’aria) and sealed with a pin. Susanna will deliver it to the Count, who will return the pin to her as a sign that the rendezvous will be kept.
When the disguised Cherubino appears with some village girls, Antonio detects his identity. Barbarina saves the day by claiming Cherubino as her promised reward for a kiss she had given the Count. Seeing the Count prick his finger while reading the letter, Figaro surmises that a love intrigue is involved.
Later that night, Barbarina searches for the pin, having dropped it in the garden (Cavatina: L’ho perduta). She explains to Figaro and Marcellina that the Count asked her to deliver the pin to Susanna “as the seal to the pine grove,” thus informing Figaro of the location of the tryst and the identity of the lady. Figaro rushes off to avenge all husbands, while Marcellina resolves to warn Susanna.
Returning with Basilio, Bartolo, and a group of workmen, Figaro instructs them to hide until he gives the signal to surprise the Count and Susanna. Figaro rails against womankind (Aria: Aprite un po’ quegli occhi). Marcellina informs Susanna that Figaro is waiting in ambush. Susanna exaggeratedly longs for her beloved – fully aware that he is listening (Cavatina: Deh! vieni, non tardar).
Disguised as Susanna, the Countess is visited first by Cherubino (Finale: Pian pianin le andrò più presso), then by her own husband, who offers a ring as a token of his love for “Susanna.” At the sound of Figaro’s arrival, the Countess flees. Disguised as her mistress, Susanna meets Figaro, and once he recognizes her voice, they reconcile their differences. The Count interrupts, thinking he has caught his wife with Figaro. Everyone emerges from hiding, and when the real Countess appears, the Count realizes that it is his own infidelities that have been revealed. The Countess forgives him and Figaro’s wedding celebration commences, finally unencumbered.
Welcome to Lyric Opera! I’m delighted that you’re joining us for our opening production of 2015-16, and I look forward to seeing
you throughout the season.
I’m sure that after experiencing this performance, you’ll agree with me that Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro is one of the most sublimely beautiful and gloriously entertaining operas ever written. It deals with all of life in a way that is both deeply touching and incredibly witty. It has something for everyone, and it’s genuinely profound in its understanding of human nature and human relationships. It’s also uniquely funny, lively, and accessible, with heartstopping melodies and amazing ensembles.
Typical of Figaro is one of my favorite sections of the opera, which occurs midway in Act Three. It’s a brief duet (less than three minutes) between our two leading ladies, the Countess and Susanna. During this duet the two soprano voices intertwine absolutely magically, and the effect is wonderfully touching. Listen for it during this performance – I’m sure you’ll be enraptured by it, as I am every time I hear it.
This opera is an evergreen masterpiece that stays with you all your life. I still remember hearing my first Figaro performances more than 40 years ago at both of the major London opera companies. After producing Figaro at both Welsh National Opera and Houston Grand Opera, it is a special pleasure for me to introduce a brand-new production here at Lyric.
Directing our production is Barbara Gaines, the distinguished and long-serving artistic director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. I got to know Barbara’s work when I arrived in Chicago four years ago, and have greatly enjoyed many of her productions. I believe Figaro is the perfect opera for her. I love her approach to the piece; we’re in an 18th-century world, but that world is not entirely naturalistic – it’s a fantasy 18th-century world, both funny and frivolous, very physical, and very sexy! The 18th-century costumes are lavishly beautiful, and wonderfully over the top. Humor, physicality, and sex appeal are three qualities that Barbara is determined to draw from our youthful cast (headed by two remarkable couples – Adam Plachetka and Christiane Karg, Amanda Majeski and Luca Pisaroni). You can expect all our artists onstage to give spellbinding performances, revealing their characters in depth in the course of a riveting, hugely entertaining evening.
On the podium I’m delighted to welcome to Lyric for the first time a brilliant young Hungarian conductor, Henrik Nánási, music director of Berlin’s Komische Oper. He is a great Mozartian, and I know he and Barbara Gaines will work wonderfully together because they share the same vision for this piece. Henrik’s conducting is energized, sparkling, full of vitality, and those are qualities that will be typical of Barbara’s production.
I hope you will be as excited by our new Marriage of Figaro as we are in presenting it to you. If you’re new to this art form, I can anticipate that the production will blow away any preconceptions you might have about opera. And if you’re coming to this work having known it well for your entire operagoing life, you can expect to be as captivated by Lyric’s production as you were when you saw Figaro for the very first time.
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