Marriage of Figaro Synopsis
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A Marriage of Figaro synopsis is a summary of the plot or storyline of the opera Marriage of Figaro.
It typically includes information about the setting, characters, and major events that take place throughout the performance.
The synopsis will help you better understand and follow the storyline of the opera.
It can also be used as a reference for those who may be unfamiliar with the opera’s plot. It may also be useful for those who want to refresh their memory before attending a performance.
So, without further ado, let’s explore the world of Figaro and all its splendour.
The Marriage of Figaro
The opera “The Marriage of Figaro” picks up the story of “The Barber of Seville” a few years after its events.
It chronicles a single day of chaos and madness, also known as “la folle journée,” at Count Almaviva’s palace near Seville, Spain.
Rosina, who was formerly known as the love interest in “The Barber of Seville,” is now married to the Count as the Countess.
Dr. Bartolo, who was previously intent on marrying Rosina himself, seeks revenge on Figaro for thwarting his plans.
The Count has transformed from a romantic tenor in Paisiello’s 1782 opera into a manipulative and womanising baritone, now using his position of power to pursue his droit du seigneur, the supposed right to sleep with a servant girl on her wedding night.
His target is Figaro’s soon-to-be wife, Susanna, who serves as the Countess’s maid.
Despite planning to marry on this very day, the Count repeatedly delays the civil ceremony for Figaro and Susanna, giving excuses.
Figaro, Susanna, and the Countess team up to expose the Count’s deceit and embarrass him.
In retaliation, the Count tries to force Figaro into marrying an older woman, but at the last moment, it is revealed that the woman is, in fact, Figaro’s mother.
With the clever schemes of Susanna and the Countess, Figaro and Susanna finally marry, and the day of madness comes to an end.
Marriage of Figaro Synopsis: Act I
Figaro, the servant of Count Almaviva and the protagonist of the story, is about to marry Susanna, the maid of the Countess.
While Figaro takes measurements of the room, Susanna tries on her wedding bonnet, and they sing the duet: “Cinque, dieci, venti.” (“Five, ten, twenty“).
Susanna expresses her concern about the proximity of their room to the Count’s chamber, as he is also pursuing her and planning to use the “droit du seigneur” to consummate their marriage before Figaro. Although the Count abolished this right, he wants it reinstated.
Susanna rushes off to answer the Countess’s call. Figaro promises to put an end to the Count’s plan and leaves as Cavatina: “Se vuol ballare, Signor Contino” (“If you want to dance, sir count“) plays in the background.
Doctor Bartolo Is Angri with FIgaro
Marcellina and Doctor Bartolo then enter the scene, and Bartolo is angry with Figaro for making a fool of him, while Marcellina is angry with Susanna for stealing Figaro from her.
Marcellina and Susanna perform the duet: “Via resti servita, madama brillante” (after you, brilliant madam) sarcastically before leaving.
Susanna, Cherubino and Count Almaviva
Thereafter, Cherubino, a young page, seeks advice from Susanna. He is infatuated with women and cannot control himself.
He tells Susanna that he is being sent away as the Count has caught him alone with Barbarina, the gardener’s daughter.
However, before he can get any advice, Count Almaviva comes in and interrupts them. Cherubino hides quickly behind a chair to avoid being seen alone with Susanna.
The count enters and uses the opportunity to arrange a tryst with her. However, he is forced to hide as Don Basilio, a music teacher, enters the scene. Basilio starts to talk about Cherubino’s infatuation with the Countess.
The Count Comes Out from His Hiding Place
In a frenzy of time, the Count reveals himself in a fit of rage through the chamber work terzetto: “Cosa sento!” (“What do I hear!“). He relates the story involving Cherubino and the gardener’s daughter. He recounts catching him with Barbarina under the kitchen table.
So he lifts the dress from the chair to illustrate how he lifted the tablecloth to expose Cherubino. Upon doing that, he discovers that the same Cherubino is hiding there!
He is infuriated that the boy heard him propose privately to Susanna. He vows to give him a military commission and ruin his life as the aria: “Non più andrai” (“No more gallivanting”) plays in the background.
Figaro Arrived With Others
Afterward, Figaro returns with the townspeople, who are ready for the ceremony and want to thank the deceptive Count.
He requests Almaviva to bind him and Susanna in holy matrimony, but the Count stalls him.
Although he renounced his feudal rights, he still holds intentions towards Susanna and thinks he would gain from her remaining unmarried.
Figaro concludes the act by taunting the lovesick Cherubino about his forthcoming military service.
Marriage of Figaro Synopsis: Act II
The act commences in Countess Rosina’s chambers, where she laments the Count’s lack of affection and love for her.
She has concluded that her marriage is in trouble, as she is aware of her husband’s unfaithful actions.
So she expresses her discontent openly by singing aria: “Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro” (“Grant, love, some comfort.”)
She shares the Count’s infidelity with Susanna, who is desperate to be left alone. Susanna is present and is troubled by the Countess’ complaints.
She responds to the Countess by stating that the Count is not attempting to seduce her but is proposing a financial contract in exchange for her affection.
Sussana and Figaro Lays out Their Plan to the Countess
As Figaro enters the room, he lays out his plan to divert the Count’s attention with anonymous letters warning him of adulterers.
He has already dispatched one to the Count through Basilio. The letter stated that the Countess had a tryst of her own that evening.
The idea is that the Count will be too occupied with searching for imaginary adulterers to interfere with Figaro and Susanna’s wedding.
Figaro further advises the Countess to keep Cherubino around and dress him up as a girl.
The plan involves trapping the Count in a secret meeting that would expose his wrongdoing and humiliate him.
To execute the plan, Susanna will rendezvous with the Count, but Cherubino will go in her place, disguised as her.
After imparting his plan, Figaro takes his leave.
After Figaro has left, Cherubino comes in with a commission letter that Almaviva had forgotten to seal.
Susanna encourages him to perform the aria: “Voi che sapete che cosa è amor” (“You ladies who know what love is, is it what I’m suffering from?”) he composed for the Countess .
Following his performance, the Countess observes Cherubino’s military commission and realises that the Count neglected to affix his signet ring, rendering it unofficial.
The women amaze him when they ask him to undress. Susanna teaches him to walk and act like a woman by performing the aria: “Venite, inginocchiatevi” (“Come, kneel down before me,”)
Thereafter, Susanna exits the room through a rear door, bringing Cherubino’s cloak with her to retrieve his dress.
The Count Arrives
As the Countess and Cherubino await Susanna’s return, they are startled by the sudden arrival of the Count.
Cherubino swiftly retreats into the closet, locking the door, while the Countess reluctantly admits the Count into her room.
However, a noise from the closet catches the Count’s attention.
He becomes suspicious of his wife’s restlessness and demands to enter the locked inner chamber where Cherubino was hiding.
The Countess informs him that Susanna is inside, trying on her wedding dress, and unable to come out.
Eventually, Susanna reappears from another room and hides before being seen or heard Trio: “Susanna, or via, sortite” (“Susanna, come out!”).
The Count demands Susanna reveal herself by speaking, but the Countess silences her.
Infuriated and suspicious, Almaviva forces Rosina to accompany him as he searches for a tool to break open the closet door. He locks all the bedroom doors to prevent the intruder from escaping.
Susanna Tells Cherubino to Come Out
Cherubino and Susanna emerge from their hiding spots. Then Cherubino jumps out of the window into the garden while Susanna enters the closet.
She is determined to make the Count appear foolish by performing the duet: “Aprite, presto, aprite” (“Open the door, quickly!”).
Almaviva forces Rosina to accompany him as he searches for a crowbar, still not convinced.
Feeling trapped, Rosina confesses everything to the Count. She confesses in desperation that Cherubino is hidden in the closet.
When the Count and Countess return, they discover Susanna in the closet, bringing relief to the Countess. Then the finale: “Esci omai, garzon malnato” (“Come out of there, you ill-born boy!”) is performed.
The Count Almaviva feels ashamed and offers an apology for his suspicions.
Afterwards, Figaro arrives at the scene. Upon his arrival, Figaro attempts to commence the wedding festivities, but the Count bombards him with a series of questions.
Thereafter, the gardener Antonio entered and complained that someone had ruined his flowers by jumping over the Countess’s balcony.
Figaro declares that he himself was the one who jumped out of the window, but Antonio insists that it was Cherubino.
Antonio then presents a paper that was dropped by the person who escaped, which he claims is Cherubino’s military appointment.
The Count challenges Figaro to prove that he was the one who jumped by identifying the paper.
Figaro is initially stumped, but with the help of Susanna and the Countess, he correctly identifies the document.
However, his victory is short-lived as Marcellina, Bartolo, and Basilio arrive with accusations against Figaro.
They demand that he fulfil his contract to marry Marcellina, as he cannot repay her loan.
The Count happily postpones the wedding to investigate the charges.
Marriage of Figaro Synopsis: Act III
While the Count is deeply contemplating the bewildering situation, Susanna approaches him. She enters and makes a false promise to meet the Count later that night in the garden.
She does this at the insistence of the Countess. (Duet: “Crudel! perchè finora” (“Cruel girl, why did you make me wait so long?”)
On her way out of the room, the Count hears Susanna telling Figaro that he will win the case. This infuriates him as he realises he is being tricked, and expresses his frustration through a recitative and aria: “Hai già vinta la causa! (“You’ve already won the case!”) and “Vedrò, mentr’io sospiro” (“Shall I, while sighing, see”).
At The Court
After Figaro’s hearing, the Count issues a judgement that Figaro must marry Marcellina.
However, Figaro discloses that he cannot marry without his family’s permission. He claimed that he did not know them, as he is of noble birth but was taken from them as an infant.
It is then discovered that Figaro is the illegitimate son of Marcellina and Doctor Bartolo. This leads to a touching reunion and more celebrations.
Bartolo even agrees to marry Marcellina, and a double wedding is planned for the evening.
Susanna arrives at the festivities with a payment to release Figaro from his debt to Marcellina. When she sees Figaro and Marcellina celebrating together, Susanna mistakenly assumes that Figaro now prefers Marcellina over her. In a fit of rage, she slaps Figaro.
However, Marcellina explains the situation, and Susanna realises her mistake and joins in the celebration.
Overwhelmed with emotion, Bartolo agrees to marry Marcellina in a double wedding that same evening.
The sextet: “Riconosci in questo amplesso” (“Recognise in this embrace”) is performed in the background.
Cherubino and Barbarina
After everyone else has left, Barbarina, Antonio’s daughter, invites Cherubino to her house. The reason is to dress him like a lady.
However, the Countess ponders her situation through the aria: “Dove sono i bei momenti” (“Where are they, the beautiful moments?”).
In the next scene, Antonio informs the Count about Cherubino, and Susanna updates the Countess on their plan to trap Almaviva.
The Countess then requests Susanna deliver a love letter to the Count on her behalf, asking him to meet Susanna that night and return the pin fastened to the letter as a token of acknowledgment.
The scene is accompanied by the duet: “Sull’aria… che soave zeffiretto” (“On the breeze… What a gentle little zephyr”)
Barbarina Asks for Cherubino’s Hand In Marriage
Following that, a group of young peasants serenades the Countess, and the Count recognises Cherubino among them. However, his anger is eventually dissipated by Barbarina.
She reminds him of his promise to give her anything in return for certain favours and demands that he marry Cherubino.
The embarrassed Almaviva reluctantly agrees, and the act concludes with the double wedding.
Susanna hands Count the note, which is sealed with a pin, confirming their tryst that evening while they dance together as the Finale: “Ecco la marcia” (“Here is the procession”) plays in the background.
Marriage of Figaro Synopsis: Act IV
Later that night, the Count followed the instructions in the letter and returned the pin to Susanna through Barbarina.
However, Barbarina has lost the pin, and she expresses her distress in the aria: “L’ho perduta, me meschina” (“I have lost it, poor me”).
Marcellina and Figaro hear about the situation. Figaro recognises the Count’s pin and becomes overly jealous upon hearing that it’s being delivered to Susanna.
He thinks Susanna is being unfaithful and voices his complaints to his mother. At the same time, Figaro vows to seek revenge against the Count, Susanna, and all unfaithful wives.
Despite Marcellina’s advice to be cautious, Figaro disregards it and leaves in a hurry. Marcellina decides to warn Susanna about Figaro’s intentions and sings an aria: “II capro e la capretta” (“The billy-goat and the she-goat”).
She is lamenting that rational humans cannot get along despite wild beasts of opposite sexes being able to.
Driven by his jealousy, Figaro seeks the help of Bartolo and Basilio, instructing them to come to his aid when he signals.
Basilio criticises Figaro’s recklessness and reflects on his own past. He shared a story of how he gained wisdom from “Dame Prudence“. He urges caution, singing the aria “In quegli anni” (“In those years”), acknowledging the necessity of not crossing those in power.
After Basilio and Bartolo leave, Figaro is left alone. Still bitter, Figaro muses about the inconstancy and unfaithfulness of women through the recitative and aria: “Tutto è disposto…”(“Everything is ready…) and “Aprite un po’ quegli occhi” (Open those eyes a little”).
Susanna and the Countess in Disguise
Susanna and Marcellina devise a plan after the latter informs the former of Figaro’s suspicions and intentions.
As part of the plan, Susanna and the Countess swap clothes, with Susanna disguising herself as the Countess and the Countess dressing as Susanna.
Marcellina accompanies them to execute the plan but departs after discussing it with them. Susanna then sings a love song, an aria: “Deh vieni non tardar” (“Oh come, don’t delay”), to her beloved.
The song further infuriates Figaro, who is hiding behind a bush and believes that the song is for the Count.
They Fooled the Count
The Countess, dressed as Susanna, arrives and is mistaken for Susanna by Cherubino, who is trying to tease her.
However, the Count tries to strike Cherubino in the dark during the finale: “Pian pianin le andrò più presso” (“Softly, softly, I’ll approach her”), but mistakenly hits Figaro, causing Cherubino to flee.
The Count, unaware of the switch, starts making love to the Countess that dressed as Susanna.
The Count Confronts Figaro
Thereafter, the real Susanna, dressed as Rosina, enters the scene.
Though initially confused, Figaro finally recognises his partner in disguise, and they reconcile as the song “Pace, pace, mio dolce tesoro” (“Peace, peace, my sweet treasure”) is performed.
The Count, unable to find the real Susanna, confronts Figaro, mistakenly thinking he’s seducing his wife.
He calls the guards through the song Ultima scena: “Gente, gente, all’armi, all’armi” (“Gentlemen, to arms!”).
So, all the characters enter the scene and beg for him to pardon Figaro and the disguised Susanna.
Count Almaviva refuses at first, but when the real Countess Rosina enters, he identifies their marriage ring.
Thoroughly remorseful and ashamed, he begs for forgiveness from his wife, and the song “Contessa perdono!” (“Countess, forgive me”) plays in the background.
The Countess pardons him through the song “Più docile io sono” (“I am more mild,”) or leading to a happy ending.
The Marriage of Figaro synopsis narrates how the characters Figaro and Susanna, who are servants, manage to get married despite the Count’s attempts to seduce Susanna.
The plot of this opera is quite intricate, making it challenging for you to grasp every detail. Nonetheless, you will discover several humorous segments that will undoubtedly amuse you whenever you see the performance.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed this opera, and it is brimming with the enchanting melodies that are characteristic of Mozart’s music. Mozart is a renowned opera composer who has made a significant impact in the field of opera.
You can check out our blog post on 10 Key Composers of Opera to learn about more opera composers.
It features well-known pieces such as the overture, Figaro’s aria “No more gallivanting,” Cherubino’s aria “You ladies who know what love is,” and many others.
Most of these pieces are rhythmic, making them excellent stress relievers from the demands of everyday life.
However, with this “Marriage of Figaro synopsis”, we believe you will be able to decipher what is going on in the opera.
CREDIT: The images used in this “Marriage of Figaro synopsis” blog post are from the Royal College of Music Opera Studio’s production of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” directed by Sir Thomas Allen. The performance was recorded in November 2018 at the Britten Theatre, located within the Royal College of Music in London.
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