Italian Opera, Class 2: Mozart

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Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro)

Composer- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Libretto- Lorenzo da Ponte (1749-1838)

Premiere- Vienna, 1786

Setting- Chateau Aguas Frescas near Seville, Spain

Principal Characters- Figaro, Susanna, Count Almaviva, Countess Almaviva, Cherubino


Figaro, Count Almaviva’s valet, and Susanna, the Countess’s maid, are about to be married when Figaro discovers that the Count is determined to revive an old custom- the seignorial right to anticipate the bridegroom on a servant’s wedding night. He vows to outwit his master. His own troubles multiply as the aging Marcellina attempts, with the assistance of the lawyer Dr. Bartolo, the hold Figaro to a marriage contract he has signed as a promissory note for a loan. (Old enough to be his mother, in reality, she is- and Bartolo is his father, as is revealed later.) The young page Cherubino, in love with love and every woman he sees, complicates the situation by overhearing the Count making advances to Susanna. the Countess and Susanna plot against the Count, first dressing Cherubino as a girl to lure the Count, then, when this scheme goes awry, exchanging costumes so that the Count believes he is meeting Susanna in the garden, whereas his own wife confronts him. Outwitted at every turn, the selfish, vengeful Count is forced to apologize. Figaro, too, apologizes to Susanna for his suspicions of trickery and unfaithfulness.

Video Highlights- Please note, although this video is listed at part I, it will segue into Part 2!

Production- Film (1976), Vienna State Opera, Director-Jean Pierre Ponnelle, Conductor- Karl Bohm

Cast includes- Hermann Prey (Figaro), Mirella Freni (Susanna), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Count Almaviva),

Kiri Te Kanawa (Countess Almaviva), Maria Ewing (Cherubino),


(13:32-16:09)- cavatina “Se vuol ballare” (Figaro)

(26:19-29:20)- aria “Non so piu, cosa son, cosa faccio” (Cherubino)

(45:06-49:00)- aria “Non piu andrai” (Figaro)


(49:15-53:45)- cavatina “Porgi, Amor” (Countess)

(1:21:30-1:41:35)- Finale of ACT II (ensemble)


(56:40-1:01:20)- “Deh,vieni, non tardar” (Susanna)


opera buffa


le droit du Seigneur

recitativo secco

recitativo accompagnata

aria di vendetta




lyric baritone

basso cantante

lyric soubrette soprano

lyric mezzo-soprano

7 Opera Masterpieces:

Idomeneo (1781, opera seria)

Die Entfuhrung as dem Sereil (1782, singspiel)

Le Nozze di Figaro (1786, opera buffa)

Don Giovanni (1787, Drama giocosa)

Cosi fan tutte (1790, Drama giocosa)

La Clemenza di Tito (1791, opera seria)

Die Zauberfloete (1791, singspiel)

Contemporary Opera Composers include:

Domenico Cimarosa

Franz Joseph Haydn

Giovanni Paisiello

Niccolo Piccini

Antonio Salieri

Don Giovanni

Composer- W.A.Mozart

Libretto- Lorenzo do Ponte

Premiere- Prague, 1787

Setting- In & near Seville, Spain

Principal Characters- Don Giovanni, Leporello, Donna Anna, Donna Elvira, Don Ottavio, Masetto, Zerlina, Commendatore


Don Giovanni, after a long life of sexual conquests, meets defeat in three encounters: with Donna Anna, whose father, the Commendatore, he kills in his escape from an unsuccessful attempt at seduction (and who thereupon postpones her marriage to Don Ottavio); and with the pretty peasant Zerlina, whom he vainly tries to lure from her betrothed, Masetto. All vow vengeance on the don and his harassed servant Leporello. (Elvira alone weakens in her resolution and attempts reconciliation and reform.) Don Giovanni’s destruction and deliverance to hell is accomplished by the statue of the Commendatore, who accepts the libertine’s joking invitation to supper.

Video Highlights-

Production- Vienna State Opera (1990), conductor- Herbert Von Karajan

Cast includes- Samuel Ramey (Don Giovanni), Ferrucio Furlanetto (Leporello), Anna Toma-Sintow (Donna Anna),

Gosta Winbergh (Don Ottavio), Julia Varady (Donna Elvira), Kathleen Battle (Zerlina), Alexander Malta (Masetto)

Paata Burchuladze (Commendatore)


(29:40-35:18) aria “Madamina, il catalogo e questo” (Leporello)

(44:00-47:22) duettino “La ci darem la mano” (Giovanni & Zerlina)

(58:48-1:01:55) aria “Or sai chi l’onore” (Donna Anna)

(1:09:25-1:10:48) aria “fin ch’han dal vino” (Giovanni)


1:46:33-1:48:33) canzonetta “Deh,vieni alla finestra” (Giovanni)

(2:17:35-2:21:46) aria “Mi tradi quell’alma ingrata” (Donna Elvira)

(2:22:20-2:30:40) Cemetery scene (Giovanni, Leporello & the Commendatore)

(2:48:50-2:56:48) Finale (Giovanni, Leporello & the Commendatore)