"Marriage of Figaro" Overture
The Countess (the Count's wife, obviously)
Susanna, the Countess's maid
Figaro, the Count's valet
Cherubino, the Count's page
Marcellina, a wealthy old woman
Don Bartolo (or Doctor Bartolo), a physician from Seville
Don Basilio, a music teacher
Don Curzio, a lawyer
Antonio, the chief gardener
Barbarina, the gardener's daughter
Meanwhile Marcellina and Don Bartolo are scheming against Figaro. It turns out that in the Figaro in the past borrowed money from Marcellina which he has not yet repaid. Marcellina enlists Bartolo's help to legally force Figaro into marriage with her if he cannot come up with the money. Bartolo relishes this idea, since he could get revenge on Figaro for making a fool out of him back in Seville.
After Marcellina and Bartolo have left, Cherubino comes in on the scene. He is essencially a young teenager who has just hit puberty. He is suddenly enamored by women and can't think straight around them. According to the dictates of his hormones, he "loves" (or more rightly, "lusts") every woman he sees, including Susanna. As it turns out, Cherubino's flirting (and more serious relations) with the gardener's daughter has gotten him into trouble with the Count. The Count is determined to banish him, but Susanna promises she will try to get the Countess (Cherubino's godmother) to prevent this from happening.
While they are talking, the Count suddenly comes in and Cherubino hides behind the chair. Not knowing Cherubino is in the room, the Count tries to seduce Susanna unsuccessfully. When the music teacher, Basilio, enters the room, the Count, not wanting to be seen with Susanna, too hides behind the chair. Cherubino is able to scramble from behind the chair to in front of the chair only quick enough not to be seen. Susanna drapes a gown over the chair to hide him. The Count and Cherubino soon are revealed, however, and the Count is so enraged with Cherubino's behavior that he "promotes" him to the rank of officer just to exile him from the castle.
While they are busy dressing Cherubino, Susanna goes off to find a suitable dress. This time the Count intrudes on the Countess's chambers, suspecting her lover is in there with her. Once again Cherubino manages to hide, this time in the closet, from the Count; but with the Countess's refusal to open the locked closet, the Count grows suspicious. With his demanding and the Countess's pleading, finally admitting to Cherubino being in the closet, the Count is thrown into a rage. A leaves the room with the Countess to find tools to break open the closet. While they are gone, Susanna (who has overheard the Count and Countess) races into the room, opens the closet and rushes to get Cherubino out. Since they can find no other way out, Cherubino rashly jumps from the window, but lands safely and runs away. Before the Count and Countess return, Susanna hides in the closet.
The Count, so certain and proud of his wife's supposed infidelity, is confused (along with the Countess) when Susanna and not Cherubino emerges instead. The Count pleads with his wife to forgive his suspicions and accusations, but soon forgets the need to forgive when Figaro arrives on the scene. He promptly accuses Figaro of sending the letter pertaining to the Countess's secret rendevous with her lover. Figaro denies it, even with the protests of the Countess and Susanna. Things become even more tense and suspicious when the gardener enters, swearing a man jumped from the window and landed in the garden. Figaro explains that it was actually he who jumped into the garden earlier, frightened by the Count's approach. The finale ends when Marcellina arrives with Bartolo and Curzio (the lawyer) to press her case: either Figaro pay the debt he owes or he must marry her.
During the marriage, Susanna slips a note to the Count, revealing the destination of their rendevous. It is sealed with a pin, a sign that she has accepted his intentions.
Cherubino, mistaking the Countess for Susanna, teases her and tries to get a kiss from her. The Count arrives and scolds Cherubino, but quickly begins to romance the Countess, for he is as fooled as Cherubino. Meanwhile Figaro, watching the whole scene, pleads for the help of the Countess (Susanna in disguise). Figaro, however, quickly recognizes Susanna's voice and puts on a mock show of his love for the "Countess". The Count sees this and accuses his wife of being unfaithful. By the end, all their identities are revealed and the Countess pardons the Count. The opera ends with wedding festivities and celebration.
Another point in "The Marriage of Figaro" is it's link to a much later (and probably a more popular) opera, Rossini's "The Barber of Seville". Both these operas are taken from the same book, published just a few years in France before Mozart undertook the opera. The story in "The Barber of Seville" however, comes before "The Marriage of Figaro". It makes much more sense if you see Rossini's opera before Mozart's.
Doctor Bartolo has a young, headstrong ward, Rosina, who longs to get out, but who Bartolo keeps locked up. He hopes that she will consent to marry him so he could get her dowry. Count Almaviva, however, shows up. He saw her briefly when she was on vacation with Bartolo and followed her here, very much in love with her. He enlists the barber of Seville's (Figaro's) help in reaching her and eloping with her. After much scheming and charading and many different disguises the Count wins Rosina's love and they elope. Out of charity, however, the Count gives Bartolo the sum of Rosina's dowry since he doesn't need it.
Rosina, therefore, is the Countess in "The Marriage of Figaro". It's kind of sad, really, to see how much the Count loved her and then neglected her, choosing to chase after younger women. It's harder to see the Count as the romantic, idealistic "good guy" in "The Barber of Seville" after watching him, many years later, transformed into a sleazy, philandering Count.
The vast range and style in this opera is superb with such melodic beauty,
grace and charm that it seems impossible to rival. Once I was able to see
a performance of it, I realized what a musical master he was. He shaded
the action, the words, the conflict, the love, everything with complex
and incredibly beautiful music. It was not in the grand opera halls either
that I first saw it performed. I am not as rich as many opera goers, so
I had to see a video recording. Even with a pair of ordinary headphones
on, I must say that nothing can be as sublime as the finale to "Figaro".
I have not heard the like of it, save in "The Magic Flute". What can I
say? It is divine.