February 25, 2021

#08-051: The Marriage of Figaro

watercolor of a woman curtseying to a man, while another man hides behind a chair to their left; all are elegantly dressed
Cherubino, the Count's philandering page, hides as the Count arrives

Note: Opera (the Italian word for "work") is famous for its grand compositions and bravura performances. But equally important to any great opera is the story.

Get Ready: Do you enjoy listening to (European) opera? Have you ever been to a performance?

Mozart's 1786 Marriage of Figaro is a great story. It was voted by a group of the world's finest opera singers in 2017 "the best opera ever written." The complex story takes place during the course of a single day. It is a "comedy of errors," with mistaken identities, reversed roles, secret meetings, a supposed orphan finding his parents, plenty of rage and jealousy, and--of course--a happy ending.

Figaro, a barber (in fact, the "Barber of Seville" introduced in an earlier play) and his fiancée Susanna are planning their marriage. Their employer, however, the Count Almaviva, is a womanizer who wants Susanna for himself. He is planning to invoke on old law, the droit du seigneur or "right of the lord" to be the first to sleep with any new bride under his jurisdiction. Figaro and Susanna conspire with the Count's wife (who is Susanna's mistress) to embarrass the Count with his many indiscretions and turn his affection back to his wife.

Into this mayhem come several sub-plots. In one, the Count's page Cherubino has been caught with the gardener's daughter; when he goes to Susanna to ask her to defend him, the Count arrives and Cherubino is forced to hide, to avoid the appearance that he has been with Susanna. He will later become part of the plot to reform the Count.

In another subplot, Dr. Bartolo has a grudge against Figaro for preventing his wooing of Rosina in the previous play. The Doctor (also a lawyer) is now representing an older woman, his housekeeper Marcellina. Figaro had borrowed some money from her, agreeing to marry her if he could not pay. The Doctor intends to get revenge by forcing him to do so.

Trying to wiggle out of his promise, Figaro claims he cannot marry Marcellina without his parents' approval, and since he is an orphan, he cannot get it. (Never mind that he is planning to marry Susanna!) As the story progresses, it is learned that Bartolo and Marcellina are in fact his parents! They happily give their support to Figaro's marriage to Susanna.

A lengthy scheme brings to light the Count's philandering, and in the end he, too, must acquiesce to the marriage. The Count is reunited with the Countess, the older (Bartolo and Marcellina) and younger (Figaro and Susanna) couples marry, and all live happily ever after.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Marriage_of_Figaro

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. acquiesce
  2. bravura
  3. grudge
  4. indiscretions
  5. jurisdiction
  6. mayhem
  7. mistress
  8. philandering
  9. womanizer
  10. wooing

  1. acts performed through bad judgment
  2. area of power or control
  3. desire for revenge
  4. courting; seeking to win the hand of
  5. the female form of "master"
  6. technically brilliant
  7. cheating on one's wife
  8. chaos; state of disorder
  9. agree; consent
  10. a man who pursues women without restraint

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for February 25, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. i; 2. f; 3. c; 4. a; 5. b; 6. h; 7. e; 8. g; 9. j; 10. d