Synopsis of The Marriage of Figaro
Composed by W A Mozart
Sung in Italian
The opera is set in Seville, Spain several years after The Barber of
ACT 1 - Figaro’s Room
Figaro, valet to Count Almaviva, and Susanna, the maid of his wife, Countess Rosina, are preparing for their imminently approaching wedding. Susanna informs Figaro that the Count has desires for her. Fearing the Count will reinstate a law allowing him to bed a servant girl on her wedding night before her husband ("droit du seigneur"), Figaro devises a plan to outsmart the Count. Moments later, Dr. Bartolo and his housekeeper, Marcellina arrive. Wishing to collect on a debt owed her by Figaro, Marcellina wants to wed Figaro - a promise he made should he be unable to repay the debt. Dr. Bartolo, still vexed that Figaro helped wed his ward Rosina to Count Almaviva (via The Barber of Seville), agrees to help Marcellina. Once alone, Susanna and Marcellina trade insults. Cherubino, the Count's godson, arrives and proclaims his infatuation with all women, especially Countess Rosina. The Count has plans to punish Cherubino after catching him in the garden with Barbarina, the gardener's daughter. Cherubino begs Susanna to intercede with the Countess on his behalf, hoping that she can thwart his punishment. Cherubino quickly hides when he hears the Count approaching, fearing to be caught with Susanna alone. The Count, however, is delighted to find Susanna alone. He tries to seduce her, but is interrupted by the music master, Don Basilio. Basilio informs the Count that
Cherubino has a crush on the Countess. The Count then finds Cherubino hiding, which enrages him. Figaro arrives with several servants, who praise the Count for abolishing the "droit du seigneur." The Count punishes Cherubino by sending him away to join the army, then delays Figaro and Susanna’s wedding.
ACT 2 - The Chambers of Countess Almaviva
Susanna is preparing the Countess for the day, when questions arise about the Count's fidelity. Susanna explains that the Count merely offered her money in return for affection, and that she will have nothing to do with him. The Countess devices a plan to discipline her husband, deciding to disguise Cherubino as herself, in order to meet the Count in secret and trick him. When Cherubino arrives, delighted to serve the Countess in any way, the two women giddily put him into a dress and bonnet. After Susanna leaves to get some ribbon, the Count tries to enter the room, but is furious to find the entrance locked. Cherubino frantically hides in a closet before the Countess unlocks the door. Already suspicious, the Count hears a noise coming from the closet. The Countess assures him it's only Susanna, but refuses to unlock the door. The Count demands she go with him to fetch tools to pry it open. Having overhead everything from behind a screen, Susanna and Cherubino realize his only escape is out a window before the Count and Countess return. Susanna then goes into the closet and waits. When the Count and Countess return to open the closet, they are both surprised to find Susanna there. Antonio, the gardener, bursts in demanding an explanation of how the flowers outside the Countess's window have been crushed. Figaro arrives and must feign a sprained ankle from having jumped out the window, to save the women’s ‘situation’. He is delighted to tell everyone that the wedding arrangements are completed. However these plans change as Marcellina, Bartolo and Basilio arrive with a court summons for Figaro and the Count happily postpones the wedding.
ACT 3 - SCENE ONE - The Count’s Office
Susanna, continuing the Countess’ plot, tells the delighted Count to meet her secretly in the garden that night. However, after hearing her whisper with Figaro moments later, he feels he is being duped. He informs Figaro he must honor his contract of indebtedness and marry Marcellina. Figaro argues that he must first have the blessing of his parents, whom he was separated from at birth. While explaining his past circumstances, Marcellina and Bartolo realize that though illegitimate, he is their long lost son, Rafaello. The three share a warm reunion and Bartolo and Marcellina decide to make their union legitimate with a dual wedding that evening. Susanna arrives and seeing Figaro embrace Marcellina, comes to the conclusion that he has agreed to marry Marcellina. After confronting Figaro, she learns the truth and joins in their celebration. They exit happily, just as the Countess arrives, full of doubt about her marriage to Count Almaviva.
ACT 3 - SCENE TWO- The Reception Room
Encouraged by the latest developments and ready to implement their plan, the Countess and Susanna write a note to the Count, instructing him to return the attached pin tonight, as a sign of acceptance to meet secretly in the garden. The dual wedding is celebrated by everyone and after the ceremony, Susanna quickly passes the pin and note to the Count. The Count, in turn passes it to Barbarina to deliver to Susanna, eagerly agreeing to the rendezvous. Barbarina innocently tells Figaro, Marcellina and Bartolo about the note and pin. Figaro leaves the garden in a rage, concluding that his new bride is unfaithful, but Marcellina vows to alert Susanna, believing her to be innocent.
ACT 4 - The Garden
Figaro, Bartolo and Basilio sneak into the garden, enraged. Figaro hides, unaware that Susanna and the Countess have arrived, dressed in each other's clothes. After going over the details of their plan, the Countess (disguised as Susanna) goes to another part of the garden to wait for the Count. Meanwhile, as Susanna sings of love, a dismayed Figaro mistakenly believes she is thinking about the Count. Then, Cherubino finds the Countess, (disguised as Susanna) and makes advances on her. The next level of confusion is reached as the Count, pursuing Susanna, now believes he has happened upon his wife making love to the lowly Cherubino. Everyone hides when they hear a noise and the Count finally meets finds "Susanna" in the garden, where he declares his love, though she flirtatiously runs away. Figaro finds the real Susanna, still disguised as the Countess. He recognizes her, but leads her on by confessing his love. Furious, she finally realizes he is only joking and they hide to watch the rest of the confusion. The Count enters, still looking for Susanna, and finding who he thinks is she, discovers that it is actually his wife. Ashamed and humiliated, he begs for forgiveness, which the gracious Countess gives. Everyone emerges from hiding and all is well at the end of this “day of madness.”
Courtesy of Candace Evans Stage Director