What makes us tick? Mozart and his librettist da Ponte understood this better than most great artists. In The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart allows us to eavesdrop into a day in the life of Count Almaviva’s household. Over the course of the opera we get to see each character’s agendas, flaws, wit and strengths. We also get to see flashes of ourselves in each character. The Countess struggles to come to terms with the possibility that her husband may not love her anymore in the heartbreaking aria ‘Porgi Amor’. In ‘Hai già vinta la causa’ the Count himself struggles with the reality that his privileged world may be changing forever. At the opera’s conclusion the Count asks for his wife’s forgiveness (and he probably means it for that moment). All seems to be resolved but we cannot be sure that he will keep his promise. Outside the Castle walls, a storm is brewing that will change everything forever. The Marriage of Figaro preserves a moment in time for audiences of all subsequent generations. With sublime music and a huge sense of fun, Figaro, perhaps more than any work of art since captures what it means to be alive.
The Bristol Hippodrome 16 March – 19 March
Milton Keynes Theatre 30 March – 2 April
Venue Cymru, Llandudno 9 March – 12 March
Birmingham Hippodrome 2 March – 5 March
Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff 18 February – 26 February
Theatre Royal, Plymouth 6 April – 9 April
Mayflower Theatre, Southampton 23 March – 26 March
Conductor Lothar Koenigs (until 9 March,6 & 9 April) Timothy Burke (12 March – 2 April)
Director Tobias Richter
Set Designer Ralph Koltai
Costume Designer Sue Blane
Lighting Designer Linus Fellbom
Assistant Set Designer Robin Don
Figaro David Stou
Susanna Anna Devin
Count Almaviva Mark Stone
Countess Almaviva Elizabeth Watts
Cherubino Naomi O’Connell
Marcellina Susan Bickley
Doctor Bartolo Richard Wiegold
Don Basilio / Don Curzio Alan Oke
Barbarina Rhian Lois
Engaged couple Figaro and Susanna, servants to the Count and Countess Almaviva, are worried that the Count will attempt to seduce Susanna on her impending wedding night. As part of a plan to prevent this from happening, Susanna, the Countess, and Figaro dress the young page, Cherubino, as a girl who will pretend to be Susanna and meet the Count so that the Countess can trap her husband. When the Count interrupts them and orders Cherubino to join the army, they change tack. Susanna and the Countess decide to expose the Count’s infidelity by swapping clothes with each other and arranging a secret meeting with him. Figaro is horrified to see what appears to be Susanna in the Count’s arms but he has been temporarily fooled. When the ladies’ true identities are revealed, the Count begs the Countess for forgiveness. Susanna and Figaro celebrate their long-awaited wedding.
It is the wedding day of Susanna and Figaro, servants to the Count and Countess Almaviva. As the couple prepare to move into their new marital quarters, Susanna is worried that the Count will try and revive the old feudal custom of the droit de seigneur, according to which the Lord of the house can be the first to sleep with the bride on her wedding night. When Figaro learns of the Count’s plans, he vows to teach his master a lesson.
Housekeeper Marcellina discusses her marriage contract with Bartolo: Figaro must repay her the money he owes her, or marry her. Household Doctor Bartolo is delighted to help her and take revenge on Figaro – the former barber who prevented him from marrying Rosina, now known as the Countess. Marcellina and Susanna exchange insults. Marcellina taunts Susanna about the Count’s interest in her. Cherubino, an adolescent page, comes to see Susanna because the Count has dismissed him for flirting with the serving girl, Barbarina. Cherubino declares his love for all the women in the house – and particularly for the Countess. He hides when the Count arrives, intent on seducing Susanna – but he, too, hides when Don Basilio, the music teacher, appears. Don Basilio tells Susanna that she would be better off with the Count than with Cherubino, who also has eyes on the Countess. The Count reappears and orders Basilio to find Cherubino. The Count discovers Cherubino, but realising that the boy has overheard everything, is at a loss as to how to punish him.
Figaro has assembled the entire household to sing the praises of their master for renouncing his claim on Susanna on her wedding night and asks the Count to bless their marriage. The Count stalls his response to Figaro by ordering Cherubino to join the army. Figaro mocks Cherubino about his forthcoming life as a soldier.
The Countess is sad because she believes her husband no longer loves her. Susanna tells her that the Count has tried to seduce her. With Figaro and Susanna’s encouragement, the Countess agrees to plot against the Count, with anonymous letters warning him of her planned assignations. They plan to expose the Count by disguising Cherubino as Susanna, and sending him to meet the Count. The Countess will then catch her husband red-handed as he attempts to seduce ‘Susanna’. Susanna and the Countess start to dress Cherubino, but he has to hide quickly as the Count enters. The Count becomes suspicious of his wife when he hears a strange noise from Cherubino’s hiding place. The Count suspects it is the Countess’s lover who is hiding. The Count leaves with the Countess, and in that time Susanna manages to help Cherubino escape and changes places with him. The Count is dumbfounded when Susanna appears from the hiding place. The Countess confronts him for his suspicious behaviour and the Count begs her forgiveness. When Figaro appears, the Count challenges him about the anonymous letter he received and Figaro denies any knowledge of it.
The gardener, Antonio, reports that he saw someone running from the Countess’s rooms, suspecting Cherubino. Figaro improvises quickly and pretends that it was him. With the help of Susanna and the Countess, he almost succeeds in his story, until Marcellina demands that Figaro marries her in repayment of the loan. The Count promises to look into the contract.
As part of a new plan to fool the Count, encouraged by the Countess, Susanna arranges to meet the Count in secret that night. When he overhears Figaro and Susanna plotting together, the Count vows to have revenge. Marcellina, supported by a lawyer, Don Curzio, insists that Figaro marries her. Figaro responds that without the consent of his parents – for whom Figaro has been searching for years – he cannot marry her. Marcellina spots a birthmark on Figaro’s arm, and realises that he is her long-lost son. She reveals to Figaro that his father is Dr Bartolo. Susanna sees Figaro embracing Marcellina and is livid until she learns that Marcellina is in fact his mother. Marcellina and Bartolo agree to marry. The Countess and Susanna plot to humiliate the Count, and the Countess dictates a note to Susanna that confirms his planned rendezvous with Susanna that night. They seal the note with a pin.
Antonio tells the Count that Cherubino has not gone to war and is somewhere in the household dressed in women’s clothing. Cherubino is saved from the Count’s punishment by the servant, Barbarina. She outwits the Count by forcing him to bless her marriage to Cherubino. As the double wedding celebrations proceed, Susanna slips the note to the Count, who pricks his finger on the pin attached to it.
Barbarina has lost the pin she was supposed to return to Susanna, confirming the Count’s meeting with her. Barbarina enlists the help of Marcellina and Figaro to find it. Figaro concludes that Susanna is unfaithful to him and swears vengeance on his new wife. Susanna and the Countess arrive, dressed in each other’s clothes, and Figaro hides. Cherubino tries to seduce ‘Susanna’, but he is chased away by the Count, who wants to be alone with her. The Count leads ‘Susanna’ away and Figaro is called by the ‘Countess’ – who is in fact Susanna, wearing her mistress’s clothes. At first Figaro is fooled, but when he realises it is Susanna, he decides to turn the tables on her and pretends to woo the ‘Countess’. Susanna is furious but when he reveals that he knew what was going on, all is forgiven. When the Count comes looking for ‘Susanna’ they decide to trick the Count once more. Figaro declares his love for the ‘Countess’, to the outrage of the Count. He calls on everyone to witness the infidelity of his wife. The real Countess reveals herself, and the Count is ashamed. He begs his wife for forgiveness, which she gives, and the household unites in celebration of the double wedding day.