Le Nozze di Figaro, is a comic opera composed in 1786 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, based on a stage comedy by Beaumarchais. An English translation of the title is The Marriage of Figaro.
The story is a continuation of The Barber of Seville. Rosina is now the Countess Almaviva; her husband, the Count, however, is not a pattern of virtue, but is seeking the love of Susanna who is to be wed to her love Figaro, the Count's valet. When he detects the rivalry of the young page, Cherubino, he tries to get rid of him by giving him an officer's commission and sending him off to war. Cherubino is in love with the Countess and the Count suspects that his wife may feel the same way. The part of Cherubino, a pre-pubescent boy, is sung by a woman who is a mezzo-soprano (the term pants role is used in opera to refer to this type of casting). As with all opera buffas (or comedic operas), a happy ending is intact.
A room in the palace. Figaro is measuring the space to see where Susanna's and his bridal bed will fit. Susanna is trying on her wedding bonnet in front of the mirror. [In the present day, following the French original more closely, the bridal wreath is substituted for the hat.] (Duet: Cinque, dieci, venti, trenta — "Five, ten, twenty, thirty.") Figaro is quite pleased with their new room, but Susanna is less so. She is bothered by its proximity to the count's chambers: It seems he has been making advances toward her and plans on exercising his "droit du seigneur" — the feudal right of a lord to sleep with a servant girl on her wedding night. Figaro is livid and plans revenge on the count (aria: Se vuol ballare, signor contino — "If you want to dance, little count"). Figaro departs, and Dr. Bartolo arrives with Marcellina, his housekeeper. Bartolo has been hired as counsel for Marcellina: Figaro had promisd to marry her in exchange for the cancellation of a debt, and she intended to make him keep his promise. Bartolo, still irked at Figaro for having facilitated the union of the count and Rosina (in The Barber of Seville), promises to help Marcellina (aria: La vendetta — "The vengeance"). Bartolo departs, replaced by Susanna, and the two share a spicy exchange (duet: Via, resti servita, madama brillante — "After you, madame"). The older woman departs. Cherubino then arrives and, after describing his insatiable love for women, particularly the countess (aria: Non so piú cosa son — "I don't know anymore what I am"), asks Susanna's aid with the count. It seems the count is onto Cherubino's amorous ways and plans to send him away to the military. When the count appears, Cherubino hides behind a chair, not wanting to be seen alone with Susanna. Then Basilio, the slimy music teacher, arrives. The count, also not wanting to be caught alone with Susanna, hides behind the chair. Cherubino leaves that hiding place just in time and jumps onto the chair, covering himself with a dress. When Basilio starts to gossip about the count, the count leaps from his hiding place. Then the count discovers Cherubino, who is only saved from punishment by the entrance of the peasants. Cherubino is compelled to depart to the army, and Figaro gives him advice about his new, female-less life (aria: Non piú andrai — "No more gallavanting").
The countess' bedroom. The countess laments her husband's infidelity. (aria: Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro -- "Grant, love, some comfort"). Figaro arrives and hatches a plan to trick the count: Susanna will give him a note indicating she wants to meet him that night in the garden; Cherubino will be waiting there, dressed as a woman; and the countess will arrive and catch him red-handed. Furthermore, Figaro has already gotten a letter to the count (via Basilio) that indicates the countess has a rendezvous that evening with a liaison of her own. Susanna lets Cherubino into the room and urges him to sing the song he wrote in honor of the countess (arai: Voi, che sapete che cosa é amor -- "You who know what love is"). After the song, they proceed to attire him in women's clothes in order (aria of Susanna: Venite inginocchiatevi -- "Come, kneel down before me"). They suddenly hear the count arriving, so Cherubino flees into the next room -- a closet. When the count enters, he hears noise from said room and tries to open it. It is locked. The countess pretends it is only Susanna, and the count, furious, leaves with the countess to find a way to get the door open. He locks the bedroom door as he leaves, such that the intruder cannot escape before he returns. Susanna, who had been hiding elsewhere in the room, overhearing the conversation) frees Cherubino, who jumps from the window, and she enters the closet from which he has escaped (duet: Aprite, presto, aprite -- "Open the door, quickly!"). The count and countess return. The countess admits that it is Cherubino hidden in the closet, but they both find to their astonishment only Susanna. Figaro then arrives and tries to commence the wedding festivities. The count stops him and asks who wrote the anonymous note given to him by Basilio. Figaro manages to avoid the quesion, only to have Antonio, the gardener, arrive, carrying a letter which he says has been dropped by a man who escaped through the window. Figaro claims it was he who jumped out the window; the document, however, is Cherubino's appointment to the military. Figaro gets out of this scrape by saying Cherubino gave it to him because it still needed the count's seal. To add to the confusion, Marcellina, Bartolo and Basilio now appear, and the former brings her charge against Figaro. The wedding is postponed in order that the count may investigate.
The wedding hall. The count is confused by the preceding occurrences. Susanna enters and agrees to meet him later that night (duet: Crudel, perché finora — "Cruel girl, why until now"). As Susanna departs, she is overheard saying to Figaro that he has already won the case. The count, hearing this, realizes he is being tricked (aria: Hai giá vinta la causa — "You've already won the case?"). Figaro's trial follows, during the course of which it is adduced that Figaro is the long lost son of Bartolo and Marcellina. Because a mother cannot marry her son, Figaro is let off the hook. Bartolo, overcome with emotion, agrees to marry Marcellina that evening in a double wedding (sextet: Riconosci in questo amplesso una madre — "Recognize a mother in this hug"). All leave, and the next scene sees the countess, alone, pondering what happened to her happiness (aria: Dove sono i bei momenti — "Where are they, the beautiful moments"). Susanna enters and updates her regarding the plan to trap the count. The countess dictates a love letter for Susanna to send to the count, which suggests that he meet her that night, "under the pines." The count is instructed to return the pin which fastens the letter, to show that he has received it. (duet: Che soave zeffiretto — "What a gentle breeze"). A chorus of young peasants, among them Cherubino disguised as a girl, arrives to serenade the countess. The count arrives with Antonio, and, discovering the page, is enraged. His anger is quickly diffused by Barbarina (a peasant girl, Antonio's daughter), who reminds him of a promise he made to her: "Barbarina, if you will love me, I will give you anything you want." What she wants, it seems, is Cherubino's hand in marriage. The count, thoroughly embarrassed, alows Cherubino to stay. The act closes with the double wedding, during the course of which Susanna delivers her letter to the count. Figaro sees the note with the pin in it, assumes it is from another of the count's trysts, and laughs to himself. As the curtain drops, the two newly-wedded couples rejoice.
Following the directions in the letter, the count has sent the pin back to Susanna, giving it to Barbarina. Unfortunately, Barbarina has lost it (aria: L'ho perduta, me meschina -- "I lost it, poor me"). Figaro sees Barbarina and asks her what she is doing. When he hears the pin is Susanna's, he is overcome with jealousy, thinking Susanna is meeting the count behind his back. Actuated by jealousy, he tells Bartolo and Baslio to come to his aid when he gives the signal. They depart, and, left alone, Figaro muses on the inconstancy of women (aria: Aprite un po quegli occhi -- "Open your eyes"). Susanna and the countess arrive, dressed in each other's clothes. Aftr they discuss the plan, the countess leaves, and Susanna sings a love song to her beloved (aria: Deh, vieni, non tardar -- "Oh come, don't delay"). Figaro is hiding behind a bush and, thinking the song is for the count, becomes increasingly jealous. The countess arrives in Susanna's dress; Cherubino, thinking her to be Susanna, tries to kiss the supposed Susanna, but is prevented by the interference of the count. The count is pursuing the supposed Susanna, who eludes him; they both run off. Then the real Susanna arrives in the countess' clothes. Figaro starts to tell her of the count's intentions, but suddenly recognizes his bride. He plays along with the joke by paying deference to her as the countess; Susanna, not knowing Figaro knows it's she, becomes jealous: she thinks Figaro is making a pass at the countess! Figaro finally lets on that he recognized Susanna's voice, and they make peace. When the count appears, Figaro, playacting, declares his love for the supposed countess and sinks on his knees at her feet. The count calls for his people and for arms: his servant is seducing his wife. During the count's tirade, as he refuses the forgive Figaro and the supposed countess, the real countess shows up and reveals her true identity; the count realizes he has been trapped (the supposed Susanna he was trying to seduce was actually his wife), and he simply kneels and asks for forgiveness (Contessa, perdono -- "Countess, forgive me"). The countess, more kind than he (Piú dolcile io sono -- "I am more kind"), forgives her husband and all are contented. They celebrate as the curtain falls.
- Plot taken from The Opera Goer's Complete Guide by Leo Melitz, 1921 version.