Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro, 1786)

Friday April 28th

Comedy of manners, or revolution in


Le nozze di Figaro – ossia la folle giornata (Figaro's wedding or the Mad Day) is the first of the three brilliant collaborations between Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte. It was also the riskiest. The Marriage of Figaro is one of the few examples of a successful literary sequel.” (NPR) It’s also a triumph of creative censorship, diluted byDa Ponte before it could be produced in Vienna. “Da Ponte’s cuts ensured that generations of future opera goers would view Figaro merely as a pleasant comedy of manners, not the caustic revolutionary vehicle of Beaumarchais.” Here’s the history from musicologist Sherwood Dudley, who produced a restored version of The Marriage of Figaro.

Music first, and real people

'In opera', wrote Mozart, 'the poetry must be the obedient daughter of the music. The best thing is when a good composer, who understands the stage enough to make sound suggestions, meets an able poet, that true phoenix.' Together, Mozart and Da Ponte changed the whole direction of the operatic form. Early operas had been based on myth and told stories of heroes, gods and
goddesses. Here Da Ponte shows us real people in real situations, attempting – as he said – 'to paint faithfully and in full colour the diverse passions that are aroused'.  The Guardian

Our Productions, and others to view

We’ll compare two very different productions! Glyndebourne 1994. Gerald Finley is Figaro and Renée Fleming the Countess.  says she is “brilliant throughout, her voice utterly disarming in its creamy tones and soaring beauty” From Netherlands Opera a very different production in 2006, set in a car showroom. Danielle de Niese is Susanna. Figaro is the opera for wonderful baritones, sopranos and trouser role mezzos. There’s a full opera version with Bryn Terfel here.  There is another Glyndebourne Figaro from 1973 with Kiri te Kanawa as the Countess. Watch the whole show on YouTube. And there is full opera recording of a classic 1976 Vienna production: Hermann Prey (Figaro), Mirella Freni (Susanna) and Dietrich Fischer- Dieskau (he count) and Kiri Te Kanawa (Countess). Maria Ewing is the best Cherubino.