Le nozze di Figaro - Synopsis
Le nozze di Figaro
Lorenzo da Ponte
Count Almaviva lusts after Susanna, the bride-to-be of Figaro, his personal servant. With the help of bribes and sweet talk he hopes to get Susanna to grant him what he has officially renounced, namely his droit de seigneur. As he obviously does not intend to be satisfied with just the one night, however, the Count has allocated the young couple a room to which he has easy access. Figaro is completely preoccupied with the furnishings in this room while Susanna seeks to enlighten him as to the Count's true motives. Figaro is confident that he will be more than equal to whatever situation arises, he has every faith in his own cunning and powers of intrigue. But the Count is not the only threat to his happiness: Marcellina believes that she is justified in hoping that Figaro will marry her. She holds a promissory note, signed by Figaro in return for some money she lent him which binds him to marry her if he cannot repay the money. Dr. Bartolo, an advocate, is going to present Marcellina's claim before the court. Further confusion is caused by Cherubino, the page, who seems to fall in love with every female he meets, with true adolescent enthusiasm. He has already poached on the Count's preserves by paying court to Barbarina, the gardener's daughter. As the Count has sacked him as a result of this, Cherubino asks Susanna to get the Countess to intercede on his behalf. Events happen in a rush: When the Count appears unexpectedly, Cherubino has to hide, and when Basilio, the music teacher, enters, the Count hides as well. When he realizes that Cherubino is also party to his wooing of Susanna, the Count presents him with an officer's commission in order to get rid of him. In the meantime Figaro has set about putting his plan into action. He has summoned the Count's female subjects to thank him for renouncing his droit de seigneur. Figaro is counting on the Count being so taken by surprise that he, Figaro, will be able to persuade him to have the marriage solemnized immediately. But the Count manages to delay the ceremony by promising Figaro a great celebration; he hopes that Marcellina's claim will be settled.
The Countess is very sad because she feels that she has lost her husband's love and is prepared to go to almost any lengths to win him back. For this reason she agrees to Figaro's plan to arouse the Count's jealousy by sending him an anonymous letter. At the same time Susanna is to agree to meet the Count secretly, but Cherubino will turn up at the meeting-place instead, wearing Susanna's wedding-dress.
Just as Cherubino is being dressed for his role, the Count returns early from hunting. His suspicions are aroused by the anonymous letter and he sees them confirmed by the fact that the door to the Countess' rooms is locked. When the Countess lets him in and he hears a noise coming from her bedroom, the door of which is, however, also locked, everything seems clear – his wife is unfaithful to him! As the Countess refuses to give him the key he intends to open the door by brute force. He leaves the room, with the Countess, to fetch the necessary tools, and he locks the door behind him. Susanna, who has remained unobserved in an ante-room throughout all this, manages to change places with Cherubino. The page escapes by jumping out of the window.
When the Count and Countess return, she tells her husband the truth: that it is Cherubino who is in the room. But then Susanna emerges from the bedroom – to the great surprise of both the Count and his wife. The Countess keeps her wits about her and pretends that this is a deliberate surprise intended to teach the Count a lesson and punish him for his jealousy. Only with great difficulty does the Count manage to gain her forgiveness and restore peace and harmony. Unfortunately, however, Cherubino's jump out of the window has not gone unnoticed. Antonio, the gardener, plans to sue the man who has destroyed his flowers. The commission papers found in the flower-bed implicate Cherubino, but Figaro, with the help of Susanna and the Countess, manages to take the blame himself.
The act ends tumultuously: Marcellina and her allies institute official proceedings against Figaro.
A new intrigue is being planned, in which the Countess takes the initiative. Susanna is to promise to meet the Count, but it will be the Countess who turns up wearing Susanna's wedding-dress.
The Count thinks he has finally achieved his heart's desire but then realizes, as a result of something Susanna says, that he is to be deceived. He orders Don Curzio, the judge, to carry out the court’s ruling – Figaro must pay his debts or marry Marcellina.
When judgement is being pronounced in the court, all the complications are solved as if by magic. It transpires that Figaro is the son of Marcellina and Bartolo and was abducted by robbers when he was a baby. So now there will be a double wedding. Marcellina will marry Bartolo, Susanna her Figaro.
But the intrigue is not over yet. The Countess dictates to Susanna a letter to the Count, naming the place at which he is to meet her in the evening. The girls from the village come to pay homage to the Countess, among them Barbarina and Cherubino in disguise. The page is again discovered but is rescued by Barbarina, who uses her influence with the Count, who has made her several promises in return for her caresses.
During the wedding ceremony Susanna slips the letter to the Count. It is sealed with a pin and this time the Count trusts in the message it contains.
Figaro accidently meets Barbarina, who is acting as the Count's messenger and is to return the pin to Susanna to confirm their tryst. While Barbarina is looking for the pin, which she has mislaid, Figaro learns of the tryst. He has no knowledge of the intrigue and is beside himself with jealousy. He swears to have his revenge and be an example to all men whose wives have been unfaithful. He arranges for all concerned to come to the place where Susanna is to meet the Count.
The swapping of clothes works. Cherubino and Figaro think that the Countess is Susanna, as does the Count, who declares his love for her with great passion. Figaro is eavesdropping on the scene and rushes in, jealous. Susanna, disguised as the Countess, avails herself of this opportunity to approach Figaro, who then quickly sees through the disguise.
The Count catches the two of them and demands that the supposed adultress should be severely punished. But now the Countess reveals her true identity. The Count has to take back all his accusations, rather shamefacedly, in front of all the witness he has summoned, and admit his own guilt. The Countess forgives him and the celebrations can begin.
Translation: Susan Bollinger
© Bavarian State Opera