“The Marriage of Figaro”

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A composer of music from Germany, Wolfgang Mozart. His extraordinary talent for music composition was obvious even as a young child. He could play the violin and piano effectively and compose excellent music at the age of five. He gave the music business his full attention while still a teenager, and by the time he was 17 he was already employed as a vocalist at the Salzburg court in his hometown (MacDonald 13). But once he was fired from his employment in Salzburg, Mozart remained in Vienna and started writing operas, concertos, and symphonies in 1781. The following year, he was invited to compose opera buffa in Vienna. In pursuit of more financial security and fame, he composed The Marriage of Figaro but performances were forbidden in Vienna because of the political content in the play. Luckily, Da Ponte revised the content and interpreted the reminder to Italian, which allowed for performances (MacDonald 13). Mozart was able to compose over six hundreds pieces of work. The majority of these are considered as summits of choral, operatic, chamber, concertante and symphonic music. Additionally, his music outputs have caused a major influence in the classical art (Mozart 21). He is one of the renowned classical composers in history. Mozart died in 1791 at the age of 45 years.

The Opera

The Marriage of Figaro is a comic opera characterized with compromises, surprises and disguises. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed the opera in 1786. In addition, Lorenzo Da Ponte assisted in writing the Italian libretto (text). The play was performed for the first time on 1st May 1786 at the Burgtheatre, Vienna (Bernick 39). The opera explains the success of Figaro in marrying Susanna against the effort of his employer Almaviva Count to seduce her. Therefore, it exhibits a love story with fidelity lessons. The opera contains four acts. The main characters are Figaro, Susanna, Count Almaviva, and Countess Rosina (MacDonald 13). The other characters include Cherbino, Antonio, Doctor Bartolo and Marcellina.

The opera is based on an earlier play or book

The opera The Marriage of Figaro was influenced by early plays in Vienna. Mozart’s play was inspired by the exceptional success of “The barber of Siviglia of 1783” by Paisiello in 1783. Similarly, the play was also motivated by older play “The barber of Seville of 1775” by Beaumarchais which was a French comedy written during the French Revolution (Brown 15).

Brief synopsis of the plot

The opera is a continuation of Beaumarchais’s work on “The Barber of Seville”. Figaro is a part-time matchmaker and a barber who is in love with Susanna. However, they are in a complicated relationship because they both work in the palace in Seville. The Count Almaviva has just married to the Countess Rosina. Unfortunately, the marriage faces challenges because of his unfaithfulness (MacDonald 13). Figaro has resigned as a barber after he secures a job as the leader of all the servants in the palace while Susanna works as the maid to Countess Rosina. Prior to Figaro’s marriage to his fiancé, his employer Count Almaviva is coveting on the beautiful bride (Mozart 21). The Count wanted to go to bed with Susanna claiming that he had the power to have sex with a servant woman on the eve of her wedding. After Figaro realizes the scheme, he confronts his master.

The Count tries to cause postponements in the civil stages of Figaro’s wedding. The countess Rosina also comes into the scene as she realizes of his husband’s behaviours (Caron de Beaumarchais and Tampalin 10). The Countess, Susanna and Figaro unite to humiliate him and reveal his immoral plans. After he was exposed, he become repentant and humbled hence request for pardon. Finally, the both the Count and Countess reconciles (Fisher and Da Ponte 32).

The musical/historical/social significance of this opera

The Marriage of Figaro has musical and social significance in the contemporary society. Firstly, Da Ponte and Mozart transformed the entire trend of the operatic art. Prior to this work, many operas had been designed on myth (Fahey 31). In addition, they focussed on the narratives of goddesses, gods and heroes. However, in this opera, Mozart and Da Ponte demonstrate the real characters in actual situations. The characters are trying to arouse the passion of all people. The opera also engages all members of the social class including the lower class (Oliver 15). For instance, when Figaro noted the consequences of Susanna’s concerns about Almaviva, his anger is communicated in the Act I. the opera exciting as it portrays the class struggle between Count Almaviva and her servant (Mozart 21). Moreover, the opera has historical significance because it clearly demonstrates the major aspects of the French Revolution in the 18th century. Therefore, the opera presented political issues using comedy (Nussbaum 21).

The musical and theatrical characteristics of the opera

The Marriage of Figaro connects the characteristics of music with the brightly planned characters of theatre. It is the opera, which turn out to be at the centre of operatic drama. It first starts as a music but abruptly bursts into a comic display. The music in the opera sets the scene for an entertaining theatre for the crazy day (Oliver 16). The melody provides the perfect atmosphere for the play involving the characters to be well-polished and entertaining creations (Caron de Beaumarchais and Tampalin 17). Mozart writes music for each of the characters although Figaro is assigned humiliating and moving music especially in Act IV. Similarly, Mozart designs affecting music, which is also poised and refined for characters such as Susanna and Countess Rosina. In Act II, Mozart also uses music to establish the dramatic confusion and tension in the theatre (Fahey 31). Finally, the music at the parting act helps to links with the atmospheres of commitment and infidelity, as well as forgiveness and transgression in the opera (De Beaumarchais 11).

The first performance of the Opera

The first performance of the opera was conducted on 1st May 1786, which was a major success. The first performance also prompted about eight more performances in the same year (Fisher and Da Ponte 34). However, in subsequent years the frequency of performances increased. Reports indicate that the opera was performed nearly every day for several months (Fahey 33). The first performance also witnessed applause from the viewer’s leading a number of encores.

The first reviews of the opera

Various institutions in the country also conducted different reviews on The Marriage of Figaro. For instance, various newspapers, poets and composers initiated the reviews towards the opera. Most of the reviews indicated that the opera had outstanding features and comedy (Nussbaum 25). In addition, the reviewers appreciated the Mozart’s work for his stunning success in art form.

The opera reflects the society of the time it was written

The Marriage of Figaro reflects the society of the time it was written. The opera represent a period of illumination criticism in a modern and truthful theatrical world, which was emerging based on the philosophical and literature work since the mid-18th century (Bernick 39). It also demonstrates the demand for more liberal arts, which illustrated the lower class as a hero against the aristocratic authority and the Church. Additionally, it reflected the French Revolution, which was fuelled by realism. The Marriage of Figaro worked to enlighten the audience on the need for liberal thinking hence it was revolutionary (Fisher and Da Ponte 34). As compared to the French Revolution, a servant in the opera is able to oppose his master and outsmarts him.

At the time, the aristocracy was less popular among the people because it was considered lustful and degenerative. However, the revolution was believed to be a dangerous act. Although Mozart’s opera did not have the political component, it reflects a product of freedom (Nussbaum 25). Therefore, he tried to express the democratic environment at the time, which encouraged libertine and freethinking (Fahey 31). For instance, Figaro challenge the power of Count to have sex with the bride on the first night. Consequently, he succeeds.

Work Cited

Bernick, Joan. "The Marriage of Figaro: Genesis of a Dramatic Masterpiece." The Opera Quarterly 1.2 (1983): 79-90. Print.

Brown, Bruce Alan. "Beaumarchais, Mozart and the Vaudeville: Two Examples from'The Marriage of Figaro'." The Musical Times (1986): 261-265. Print.

Caron de Beaumarchais, P. A., and S. Tampalini. "The marriage of Figaro." (1989). Print.

De Beaumarchais, Pierre-Augustin Caron. The Figaro Trilogy: The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro, The Guilty Mother. OUP Oxford, 2003. Print.

Fahey, Diane. "The marriage of Figaro." Southerly 53.3 (1993): 63. Print.

Fisher, Burton D., and Lorenzo Da Ponte. Mozart's Da Ponte Operas: The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, Cosi Fan Tutte. Opera Journeys Publishing, 2007. Print.

MacDonald, Jennie. "The Marriage of Figaro." Restoration and 18th Century Theatre Research 26.1/2 (2011): 85. Print.

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. Marriage of Figaro: vocal score. Courier Corporation, 2001. Print.

Nussbaum, Martha C. "Equality and Love at the end of the Marriage of Figaro: Forging Democratic Emotions." Journal of Human Development and Capabilities 11.3 (2010): 397-423. Print.

Oliver, Stephen. "Music and comedy in „The Marriage of Figaro." WA Mozart, The Marriage of Figaro (1983). Print.

April 13, 2023

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