“Le Nozze di Figaro” by Mozart: even in satirical 18th century society, love always win…

MET Opera House building–Lincoln Center/Wednesday January 12th, 2022.

Welcome back friends, And welcome this week again, to the wonderful world of opera!

Yay!!!

And this week, yet again, welcome back to classic opera, and believe it or not, but welcome to another masterpiece of the opera canon, to a hilarious, incendiary, hectic, shrewd and beautiful, opera buffa!!!

Wow! and yay! yay! yay!

So happy!

Welcome to Mozart (1756-91), and his incredible (1786) “Le Nozze di Figaro”.

Wow! and yay! yay! yay!

Welcome to another rich satirical take on society, set two centuries later, than last week’s Verdi (Rigoletto), set for “Le Nozze di Figaro”, in 18th century society (which outraged of course, 18th century aristocracy, at first), and set in Spain, near Seville; famous at the time, for its passionate, cunning, hot blooded, jealous characters, and for beautiful women, often sequestered behind latticed windows, also called “jalousies” (which gave the name to the feeling).

Wow!

Speaking of which, let’s admire below, an original and gorgeous 1930’s take, on these “jalousies” for this intricate “rotating” set, for “Le Nozze di Figaro”, from the current stunning Sir Richard Eyre production for the Met, which I admired last Wednesday evening.

Wow!

Just beautiful, and allowing for a wonderful variety of “silly” scenes, while staging realistically as well, the overarching jealousies, wily pranks, and constant “misunderstandings” that overflow this wonderful comedic, opera.

And in “Le Nozze di Figaro”, a wide display of behaviors from all characters, is on constant display in this opera: simultaneously, loving, truthful, respectful, seductive, skirt chasing, deceptive, ironic, angry, often hilarious, festive, idealistic, imaginative, caring, and yet at times also, plainly imperfect, and sometimes abusive, and ultimately, just, utterly moving.

Wow!

And finally, this comic opera, “Le Nozze di Figaro”, to the audience’s relief, despite all the complexity, cynicism, and potential pitfalls, which all of the characters face, one way or another, also, ends well, for everyone!

Yay! yay! yay!

Of course, as it is an opera “buffa”, it has to, end well, but still:

Yay! yay! yay!

How wonderful! And wouldn’t that be nice?

Yay! yay! yay!

So what another truly outstanding and timeless operatic work, “Le Nozze di Figaro”, and unsurprisingly, composed by all time, and beloved musical genius and icon, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Wow! and yay! yay! yay!

Of course, “Le Nozze di Figaro” in its storyline, is a tad dated, in many ways, as society has thankfully evolved towards more respectful customs/laws towards one another, but yet, still, this opera’s plot is still incredibly accurate as well, about humanity’s imperfections and behaviors, and its capacity, fortunately, to also, love fully!

Yay! yay! yay!

And what incredible music, (in particular 4 arias, for me, yet, there are many others), and what fantastic libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte (1749-1838), who also collaborated with Mozart, on two other of his amazing operas (“Don Giovanni”, commissioned right after the success of “Le Nozze di Figaro”, and another of my favorites, for its humor and great humanity, as well: “Così fan tutte”.

Wow!

And what fun, silly, and intricate story, for this four act opera, based on a cheeky, witty, scheming play, by the imaginative French dramatist Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-99).

Just incredible, rich and wonderful comedy, found in “La folle journée, ou le mariage de Figaro” (1778).

Yay! yay! yay!

So what is the storyline, of this outlandish four act opera, about, in a nutshell?

Believe it or not, but this provocative and yet playful opera, “Le Nozze di Figaro” will prove to be able to depict, in just one single, “crazy”, and long day, complex human behaviors, from astute servants (Figaro and Susanna), outwitting their masters (the count and countess Almaviva), as well as the countess, outplaying the count, and Figaro and Susanna, also “tricking” each other, and a few others, as Figaro and Susanna, prepare for their own upcoming wedding, that day.

Wow! wow! wow!

Here are more details about the plot:

In Act I, In a store room, given to them by their masters, count and countess Almaviva, Figaro and Susanna are preparing for their wedding (and making room for their wedding bed), happening later that day, and Figaro is besides himself with anger, when he finally learns (as Susanna did not want to tell Figaro at first, and when she eventually does, Susanna asks Figaro to trust her), that the count has been trying to seduce Susanna (even though it was “customary” at the time, to have the right to bed a servant, on her wedding night).

Oh boy and gasp! gasp! gasp!

Figaro vows to avenge this humiliating affront.

Oh boy!

Two new characters, Dr Bartolo (who is also in love with the countess Almaviva, and has been for years, poor thing), and his former housekeeper Marcellina, then, appear.

Oh boy!

Marcellina herself, is intent on marrying Figaro: she has lent him some money, and Figaro must either repay her or marry her.

How nice!

Oh boy!

When Susanna runs into her rival Marcellina, they exchange insults, in a very witty and silly way which makes for a hilarious scene, and great music.

Yay!

Susanna returns to her room, and there, a young page to the count, “Cherubino” rushes in (a “trouser” role, sang with great gusto and fun, by a wonderful mezzo, as was the tradition in Mozart’s time), “Cherubino”, then tells Susanna, of his love for all the women in the house, and especially of his love for the countess (yet another admirer of the countess).

Oh boy! oh boy! oh boy!

And what another (in addition to the count Almaviva, as we will continue to see), what another lewd, lascivious, lecherous, skirt chaser, this silly young page, “Cherubino” proves, and will prove to be, and who immediately brings huge smiles to the audience, for his comedic qualities.

Yay! yay! yay!

Then, suddenly, the count Almaviva enters Susanna’s room, and “Cherubino” has to quickly hide, the count tries to seduce Susanna, unaware of “Cherubino”‘s presence.

Oh boy!

Then it is the count Almaviva himself, that has to hide as well, as Don Basilio, a music teacher approaches.

Oh boy!

Don Basilio tells then Susanna, that everyone knows that “Cherubino” has a crush on the countess Almaviva.

Oh boy!

Outraged, the count Almaviva steps out of his concealment, yet, is even more furious, when he realizes that “Cherubino” overheard the count’s attempts to seduce Susanna.

Oh boy! oh boy! oh boy!

The count Almaviva chases “Cherubino” out of the room, and encounters Figaro, and the rest of the household staff, who praise the count; and the count Almaviva has no choice, but to bless, right then and there, Figaro’s upcoming wedding to Susanna, and orders “Cherubino” to join the army without delay, to silence “Cherubino”.

Oh boy! oh boy! oh boy!

In Act 2, in her bedroom, the countess Almaviva, finally, appears, and sings a beautiful aria, about love lost.

Here is a version I particularly like, by the great Schwarzkopf:

Enjoy!

https://youtu.be/XXQX1U8mJwY

The countess Almaviva then, agrees to set a trap, for her philandering husband, encouraged by Figaro and Susanna.

Oh boy!

“Cherubino” will be disguised as Susanna, and sent to meet the count, later that evening. At the same time, Figaro will send the count, a note, suggesting that the countess, is also meeting, herself, that evening, another man.

Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy!

“Cherubino” arrives, and Susanna and the Countess, lock the door, before dressing “Cherubino” up in women’s clothes.

Oh boy! And what fun, to have a young page played by a woman, yet dressed like a man, then pretend to be a woman, borrowing another woman’s clothes!

A classic convention, to “play” with this “trouser” role, that always makes the audience laugh.

Yay! yay! yay!

“Cherubino” sings as he walks in the room, a beautiful aria, trying to understand what love is, and asking the countess and Susanna, their opinions, since they have known love:

Enjoy this beautiful rendition, by the wonderfully expressive and talented Shaham!

As Susanna steps into another room, the count tries to come in, and is annoyed that the room is locked.

Oh boy!

“Cherubino” then, quickly hides, in the dressing room. As the countess lets the count come in, the count is skeptical that Susanna is in the dressing room, when he hears a loud noise from behind the door.

Oh boy! oh boy! oh boy!

Taking the countess with him, the count leaves, to get tools, to force open the dressing room.

Oh boy! oh boy! oh boy!

Meanwhile, Susanna has reentered the room unseen, and observed everything. As her masters leave the room, Susanna helps “Cherubino” escape through the window, and takes his place, in the dressing room.

Wow! and yay! yay! yay!

As the masters return with tools, they are both astonished, when Susanna comes out of the dressing room.

Oh boy! oh boy! oh boy!

Well done Susanna!

So silly, and yet of course, so hilarious and candid, as well, all of these “hide and seek” scenes!

Yay! yay! yay!

Figaro arrives to begin the wedding festivities, and the count Almaviva starts questioning Figaro, about the note he received.

Oh boy!

Figaro successfully eludes the question, when Antonio the gardener appears, complaining that someone has jumped from the window, damaging his flower beds. Figaro improvises a fake limp, and pretends he jumped from the window.

Oh boy!

As the gardener leaves, Dr Bartolo, Marcellina and Basilio, the music teacher, all appear, holding the contract that declares, that Figaro must honor his agreement to marry Marcellina, and has to postpone his wedding to Susanna.

Oh boy! oh boy! oh boy!

In Act 3, Susanna leads on the count Almaviva, later that day, with promises of meeting him, later that evening.

Oh boy!

The count is first overjoyed, but then, when he hears Susanna conspire with Figaro, is furious, and wants revenge.

Oh boy! oh boy! oh boy!

The countess then, recalls of her past happiness.

Oh boy!

Marcellina demands to be paid her debt, or marry Figaro, and Figaro replies, that he cannot do so, without the consent of his parents, he has been searching for years.

Oh boy!

Marcellina then realizes, that Figaro is her long lost son, fathered by Bartolo.

A double wedding is decided, for Figaro and Susanna, and Bartolo and Marcellina.

Oh boy! So silly! Another classic convention (this “revelation”), which amuses audiences, each time.

Then, Susanna arrives, and seeing Marcellina and Figaro embrace, she thinks Figaro has betrayed her, and is finally comforted, when she learns the truth.

Yay!

The countess Almaviva, is then determined to outplay her husband, and pens a romantic letter, she gives to Susanna, confirming his meeting with Susanna, in the evening!

Oh boy!

And well done, to the countess, for taking her own “heart” matters, into her own hands, and reigniting her romantic capabilities!

Yay!

Let’s now listen to this beautiful and poetic aria, and beautiful duet, my favorite duet musically, of this opera:

Enjoy this terrific 1968 version, from Janowitz as the countess, and Mathis as Susanna, just magical!:

Meanwhile, “Cherubino”, (what a rascal), now disguised as a girl, appears with his current “sweetheart”, Barbarina, daughter of Antonio, the gardener, and (Barbarina), happens to be also, Susanna’s cousin.

Just making sure you are following!

Antonio, the gardener, then arrives, with “Cherubino”‘s cap, found in the flowerbeds.

Oh boy!

The count is furious that “Cherubino” has disobeyed him, and is still in the house.

Oh boy!

Barbarina, reminds the count, that when he tried to seduce her, he promised her, anything she wanted, and Barbarina now says, she wants to marry “Cherubino”. The count reluctantly agrees.

Oh boy!

While the household assembles for Figaro and Susanna’s wedding, (and Figaro’s parents wedding); Susanna when dancing with the count Almaviva, hands him the “meeting” note (written by the countess Almaviva, let me remind you), sealed with a pin, confirming their “date” together, Susanna and him, later that evening.

Oh boy!

in Act IV, at night in the garden, Barbarina despairs that she has lost the pin, that the count Almaviva has asked her to take back to Susanna, to confirm the meeting, later that evening. When Figaro and Marcellina arrive, Barberina tells them about the planned rendez-vous, between the count Almaviva and Susanna. Thinking Susanna unfaithful, Figaro curses all women.

Oh boy!

Figaro hides, and Susanna and the countess Almaviva arrive, dressed in each others clothes.

Oh boy!

Alone, Susanna sings a beautiful aria of love, she knows that Figaro is listening, and enjoys making him think she is about to betray him with the count.

Oh boy!

Enjoy, again with the incredible Mathis singing Susanna, and what a delightful, sunny and beautiful aria, my favorite of the opera, what elegance in the music!

Just awesome!

Susanna then, conceals herself, in time, to see “Cherubino”, try to seduce the disguised countess Almaviva.

Oh boy!

What indeed, a constant rascal, this “Cherubino”!

Oh boy!

And when the count Almaviva (the other true big rascal in this opera, Dr Bartolo is not, he just used to love the countess from afar, and probably more now his Marcellina, he is marrying, at least, that’s what we hope for him), when the count arrives, looking for Susanna, the count chases “Cherubino” away.

Oh boy!

Figaro by now, realizing what is going on, joins in on the joke, and declares his passion for Susanna, in her “countess Almaviva” disguise.

Oh boy!

The count Almaviva returns to discover Figaro with his wife, or so he thinks, and explodes with rage.

Oh boy!

At that moment, the real countess Almaviva steps forwards, and reveals her identity.

Wow!

Ashamed, the count Almaviva asks the countess Almaviva, for her forgiveness.

Oh boy!

And what a truly poignant and beautiful musical moment, one of my favorite of this opera, and to me, a truly moving and wonderful conclusion, despite all the past silliness, proving that true love, always finds a way.

Wow! wow! wow!

Ultimately, the countess, who truly loves, despite his imperfections and bad behavior, the count, forgives him, and that is no small feat (although it was certainly customary at the time).

Wow!

And the entire household celebrate the day’s happy ending!

Wow! wow! wow!

And yay! yay! yay! to happiness, of course, which could be easier with less shenanigans, if you ask me!

Just saying.

What to say about the singers?

That all of them, were, as was the orchestra, beautifully conducted, as last week, under Daniele Rustioni’s wonderfully nuanced baton.

Yay! yay! yay!

Also, last Wednesday evening, of all the singers, the one I was the most moved by, was English soprano, Lucy Crowe, singing with great clarity, technique, liveliness and ease, the role of the cunning and charming Susanna.

Wow! and yay!

Ryan McKinny, the American bass baritone, was a convincing loving and shrewd Figaro, and I wished he could have been even more joyful. Golda Schultz, the South African soprano, was a nuanced countess Almaviva, yet I thought she was too happy, too early, during the opera, but I get it, what a great role to sing! And Adam Plachetka, the Czech bass baritone, was wonderfully funny, as the count Almaviva, which brought a lot of light heartedness to the atmosphere. And finally, Isabel Leonard, the American mezzo, was so fun, expressive, and charming, as “Cherubino”!

Bravo!

Yay! yay! yay!

So, to sum up my feelings, about Mozart’s hilarious and joyful “Le Nozze di Figaro”, admired last Wednesday, at the MET Opera, in great company: what an extraordinary, ironic, and caustic society portrait, set to awesomely beautiful music, intricate arias, and what a stunning production; and what a great reminder, to be grateful for love, and protect it always, with, drive, joy, and peace.

Wow!

And yay! yay! yay!

Just incredible!

Until next time friends!

Soft…

Fluttering…

Sunny…

Joyful…

Happy…

Loving…

Eternal butterflies 😊