Five Things You Need To Know About Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro

Friday 2 March 2018

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word marriage? 

Love? Companionship? A rather stressful ‘big day’? 

Well, you’re in luck, because Mozart’s popular comic opera, The Marriage of Figaro, offers all of that, plus even more twists and turns. With the bride and groom to be, Figaro and Susanna, getting ready to tie the knot, Count Almaviva and his compadres conspire to ruin the day. This blog will outline five things you need to know about the ever-popular, The Marriage of Figaro.

1) The Marriage of Figaro was premiered at the Burgtheater, Vienna in 1786. Although popular now, the first premiere of the opera did not receive the most positive reviews, with the Emperor Joseph questioning the ‘heaviness’ of the music. However, after the Prague premiere a few months after some revisions were made, the opera was a resounding success, and has remained popular and unchanged since.

2) The libretto, that was written by Lorenzo Da Ponte, was adapted from Pierre Beaumarchais’ play: La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro (trans. The Mad Day, or the Marriage of Figaro ). However, Da Ponte’s libretto and Beaumarchais’ play differ more than you would think. In the late 1700s, La folle journée was actually banished from various European countries and cities, such as France and Vienna, due to its scandalous subject matter. Therefore, Da Ponte’s libretto was less political and aggressive, and instead was made into a comedic script, to please both the high courts, and European audiences.

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3) As well as being one of the most well-known and popular operas ever written,
The Marriage of Figaro also has some instantly recognisable music that has made it into
the present-day media. The characteristic aria Non piú andrai, is performed yearly at
Trooping the Colour, which celebrates the Queen’s official birthday. The overture has
also been featured in blockbuster films, such as The King’s Speech (2011).

You can read more about the famous overture here:

4) Typically, an overture showcases various melodies and thematic material from the
opera/show. However, Mozart does not let us preview any music from the opera in
The Marriage of Figaro overture. Instead, he has written an overture that captures the
pace and atmosphere of the opera. The overture is a celebration of comedy, romance and music, and its playful nature showcases this effortlessly!

5) Although technically classed as an ‘opera buffa’ (comic opera), Da Ponte and Mozart
intended to create a newer, more developed form of opera with The Marriage of Figaro.
Opera buffa’s from around that time were often similar in character development – with many not having much development at all! However, The Marriage of Figaro is different in that respect, as it explores a deep meaning of what love is between two rather complex characters. Figaro, for example, is shown to feel many different emotions such as love, jealousy, betrayal and anger. The complex range of characters, coupled with Da Ponte’s ground-breaking libretto, and Mozart’s incredibly effective score, makes The Marriage of Figaro one of the most performed operas of all time.

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© Alex Burns 2018

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