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THE PRINCETON FESTIVAL’s winning production of Le Nozze di Figaro boasted a vigorous orchestra, attractive costumes, a gorgeous set, and traditional staging energized by a talented company…. [The] ensembles crackled with dramatic tension, and arias sung to another character became scenes, with the active participation of the other person. – Opera News
MUSIC BY WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
LIBRETTO BY LORENZO DA PONTE
RICHARD TANG YUK, CONDUCTOR
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro
Libretto: Lorenzo da Ponte, after Beaumarchais
Premiere: May 1, 1786, Burgtheater, Vienna
A partly furnished room in Count Almaviva’s palace
Figaro and Susanna, servants of the Almaviva household, are to be married. Figaro measures the room for his marriage bed, while Susanna tries on her colorful wedding bonnet. Susanna is concerned that their bedroom is too close to Count Almaviva’s chambers. The Count has his eye on Susanna and wishes to reinstate the droit du seigneur, the alleged privilege of a lord to bed a servant girl on the night of her wedding. Upon hearing Susanna’s concerns, Figaro vows to outwit the lecherous Count and leaves the room.
Marcellina is upset that Susanna has stolen Figaro from her, prompting the women to trade barbs and insults. Upon Marcellina’s departure, the young page Cherubino enters the room. Frightened, he relays to Susanna how the Count discovered his amorous advances towards Antonio’s daughter, Barbarina. Cherubino justifies his actions by expressing his inability to resist women. Before Susanna can speak to him, the Count bursts into the room. Cherubino hides while the Count schedules a romantic liaison with Susanna. They then hear the voice of the music teacher and prolific gossip Don Basilio. The Count, fearful that Don Basilio will discover his rendezvous, hides in a corner. Basilio tells Susanna that Cherubino has romantic feelings for the Countess. The enraged Count emerges from his hiding place, tells Basilio of Cherubino’s encounter with Barbarina, and announces that he is sending Cherubino away. The Count then discovers a hiding Cherubino, who has certainly overheard his plans with Susanna. Undeterred, the Count coerces Cherubino to accept a military commission. The villagers and castle staff give the page an appropriately festive sendoff.
The Countess’s bedroom
The Countess greatly laments her husband’s lack of tenderness and is well aware of his wandering eye. Susanna tells the Countess of her scheme to trick the Count. Figaro writes a letter, delivered by Don Basilio to the Count, indicating that the Countess is having an affair. In the meantime, Susanna sets up a liaison with the Count and intends to send a disguised Cherubino in her place. Cherubino returns with an unsealed commission and sneaks into the Countess’ bedroom. Suddenly, the Count enters the room expressing concern over Basilio’s forged letter. The Countess frantically locks Cherubino and Susanna in her dressing room. The Count suspects that his wife is being unfaithful and demands to enter the dressing room. The Countess nervously explains that Susanna is trying on her wedding dress. The Count is unconvinced and leaves the room to fetch a crowbar. Susanna and the Countess then help Cherubino escape through an open window. The Count returns with the crowbar, opens the dressing room door, and finds Susanna. Embarrassed, he begs his wife for forgiveness. Figaro returns to the palace with his wedding guests and encourages the Count to join the festivities. Meanwhile, the Count overhears that Figaro must marry Marcellina to settle a debt.
A banquet hall
Susanna agrees to meet the Count in the palace gardens. He then overhears Susanna tell Figaro that he may no longer have legal and money issues. Marcellina and Dr. Bartolo confront Figaro and demand he settle his debts. Figaro cleverly declares that he is of noble birth and cannot marry without the consent of his family. To prove he is of noble birth, Figaro shows them his birthmark. The birthmark proves that Figaro is the long lost son of Marcellina and Dr. Bartolo. Upon this remarkable discovery, Figaro lovingly embraces his parents. Meanwhile, Susanna walks in on Figaro embracing Marcellina and is enraged. Marcellina explains the situation and assuages Susanna’s fears. Everyone leaves the room except for Susanna and the Countess. The Countess dictates a letter from Susanna to the Count and decides to surprise him in the garden. Susanna then seals the deceptive letter with a decorated pin. The guests and palace residents gather for a joyful wedding between Figaro and Susanna. Susanna then slips the dictated letter to the Count.
In the palace gardens
Barbarina explains to Figaro that she has misplaced Susanna’s decorated pin. Figaro, convinced that Susanna is cheating on him, enlists the help of Bartolo and Don Basilio to uncover the plot. Cherubino enters the garden, looking for Barbarina. The Countess and Susanna, disguised as one another, wander the grounds. Cherubino mistakes the Countess for Susanna and attempts to kiss her. The Count reveals his love for Susanna, who is really the disguised Countess. Figaro vents his frustrations to the Countess, who is really the disguised Susanna. Figaro quickly discovers the disguise and embraces his wife. The frustrated Count sees the embracing couple and believes that Figaro has seduced the Countess. But then the real Countess removes her disguise. The Count, ashamed and humbled, apologizes for his infidelity. All is forgiven, and the happy couples rejoin the festivities.