The Marriage of Figaro
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When a womanising aristocrat tries to seduce his valet’s pretty young wife, his wife and servants conspire to teach him a lesson in fidelity he’ll never forget. Plots are hatched, promises made (and broken) and disguises donned, as Mozart’s ‘mad day’ unfolds.
A revolutionary comedy in every sense, Mozart and Da Ponte’s adaptation of Beaumarchais’s banned 1778 play about warring masters and servants takes a topical satire and broadens it into a deeply human drama. The battle between both classes and sexes remains sharply bladed, but the characters themselves are rounded by some of Mozart’s most sparkling music into feeling, fallible and all too familiar personalities.
Director Michael Grandage updates the action to the swinging sixties in his 2012 production, starring Lydia Teuscher as Susanna and Vito Priante as her beloved Figaro. Robin Ticciati conducts.
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
The Glyndebourne Chorus
Chorus Master Jeremy Bines
While his fiancée Susanna tries on a wedding bonnet, Figaro measures a room which she is dismayed to discover has been offered them by the Count. She points out its dangerous proximity should he seek her out during her husband’s absence; his offer of a dowry is in exchange for his ancient feudal rights. Figaro swears to frustrate him.
As he leaves, his old enemy Bartolo and Bartolo’s former servant Marcellina enter, the latter with a marriage contract between her and Figaro to which they intend to hold him. Susanna’s entrance gives Marcellina the opportunity for some spiteful muttering. The two square up for a verbal combat.
The page Cherubino turns up, miserable that he is to be sent away because the Count found him dallying with the gardener’s daughter, Barbarina. Seeing the Count approach, he hides behind a chair.
The Count presses his proposal upon Susanna. Her gossipy singing teacher Basilio’s arrival forces him to hide behind the chair while Cherubino moves into it and is hidden beneath Susanna’s dress. Basilio’s mention of Cherubino gazing longingly at the Countess draws the Count out of hiding; demonstrating how he discovered Cherubino in Barbarina’s room, he finds him yet again!
He is interrupted by the arrival of Figaro and a group of peasants praising him for abolishing the droit de seigneur. The Count sends Cherubino off to join his regiment.
The Countess laments her husband’s neglect. Susanna explains his financial offer. Figaro intends to send a cross-dressed Cherubino to meet the Count instead. Arriving in poor spirits, the page is prepared by Susanna for his meeting with the Count; she leaves to fetch her dress. As the Countess teases Cherubino about his crush on her, the Count’s arrival causes him to hide in the closet. Cherubino knocks something over; the Countess says it is Susanna who, unobserved, returns and hides behind a screen.
The Count demands that Susanna come out. He goes to fetch tools to open the door — taking the Countess with him. Susanna releases Cherubino who escapes through the window while she enters the closet. Returning with her husband, the Countess confesses that Cherubino is inside. Both are nonplussed when Susanna emerges.
Figaro arrives. The gardener Antonio bursts in complaining about someone jumping from the window; Figaro claims it was him. The Count is relieved to see Bartolo, Marcellina and Basilio enter demanding that Figaro marry Marcellina or repay his debt. All ends in confusion.
In the hall laid out for festivities, the Count takes the opportunity to renew his proposal to Susanna. She appears to agree, until the Count overhears her telling Figaro that they have won their case.
Alone, the Countess ponders her unhappy marriage. Meanwhile the court case to decide on Marcellina’s contract has been resolved in her favour. Figaro plays one last card – stolen as a baby from a respectable family, he requires his parents’ consent. In his description of his history and birthmark, Marcellina recognises Figaro as her long-lost son; Bartolo is his father. The family is reunited and Susanna and Marcellina reconciled.
Susanna and the Countess write to the Count inviting him to an assignation; a pin must be returned as acknowledgement. A group of peasant girls arrives offering flowers to the Countess; among them she recognises Cherubino; unfortunately, so does the Count. Slyly spilling the beans on the Count’s relationship with her, Barbarina’s plea for Cherubino to marry her forces him to agree. The wedding celebrations begin. Surreptitiously, Susanna passes the letter to the Count.
That night in the garden, Barbarina laments losing the pin she was supposed to return to Susanna. Figaro and Marcellina realise its significance. Figaro prepares to interrupt the meeting. Marcellina decides to forewarn Susanna.
Barbarina enters and hides, soon followed by Figaro and his witnesses Bartolo and Basilio. Disguised in each other’s clothes, Susanna and the Countess enter to ensnare the Count.
Cherubino turns up, seeking Barbarina, but seeing (as he thinks) Susanna, he takes the opportunity to flirt with her. He is violently replaced by the Count before ‘Susanna’ makes her excuses. All is mayhem as the disguises confuse both the Count and (initially) Figaro, who is apparently caught trying to seduce the Countess.
The Count calls for arms. He refuses to forgive ‘the Countess’ for her infidelity until the real Countess enters and dumbfounds him. Begging forgiveness, he is pardoned.
en deceived, Rosina agrees to marry Bartolo. A thunderstorm passes. Figaro and the count climb a ladder to Rosina’s balcony and let themselves in with the key. Rosina appears and confronts Lindoro, who finally reveals his true identity as Almaviva. Basilio shows up with the notary. Bribed and threatened, he agrees to be a witness to the marriage of Rosina and Almaviva. Bartolo arrives with soldiers, but it is too late. He accepts that he has been beaten, and Figaro, Rosina, and the count celebrate their good fortune.
Written by George Hall
Photos: Alastair Muir