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Marriage of Figaro
Marriage of Figaro is a four-act opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with the libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. It is based on a stage comedy La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro (The Mad Day, or The Marriage of Figaro) by Pierre Beaumarchais and premiered in 1786 at the Burgtheater in Vienna. The opera is one of the greatest and almost always listed in the top ten persistently performed operas.
Marriage of Figaro is the story of two servants, Figaro and Susanna. It deals with how they teach their master a lesson for trying to seduce Susanna and their personal love track, which leads to marriage. The opera has been described as one of the ‘supreme masterpieces of operatic comedy.'
Background Information and History
The play by Pierre Beaumarchais was banned in Vienna for depicting the reality of class treatment in society, and Firago's speech at the end targets the nobility. The Emperor wanted the censor to ban the play or make enough changes to remove 'objectionable content.'
However, Mozart’s librettist got permission from the Emperor to perform the opera even before the music was ready. Da Ponte worked on the story and turned it into a libretto in less than two months. He got rid of political references and Figaro’s speech. The opera turned out to be a great success and was the first of the three collaborations between Mozart and Dan Ponte.
The initial two stagings for the opera were conducted by Mozart himself. He sat at the keyboard as was the custom in those days. Then, Joseph Weigl took over the job for the remaining performances.
The opera was a hit that the company performed eight times the same year it was premiered. While nine performances is not a big number, it still proved that Marriage of Figaro was liked by the audiences. The opera gained fame over the years and became immensely popular.
There was a special performance for the Emperor in June 1786. The Prague production in December was a huge success. Mozart was invited to perform in Prague, which he didn’t in January 1787. Since Marriage of Firago wasn’t performed for two years (1787-88), Mozart made a few changes to Susanna’s composition to suit the new singer who took over the role. Two arias from act four are often removed from the opera as they talk of animal abuse.