Le Nozze Di Figaro Synopsis

The Story of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro"

The Marriage of Figaro,Cape Town Opera
The Marriage of Figaro,Cape Town Opera. John Snelling/Getty Images

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, "The Marriage of Figaro," premiered on May 1, 1786, at the Burgtheater, in Vienna, Italy. The story is set in Seville, Spain, several years after The Barber of Seville.

Le Nozze di Figaro, ACT 1

Figaro, the valet to Count Almaviva, and Susanna, the maid, are preparing for their imminently approaching wedding when Figaro learns that the Count has desires for Susanna.

Fearing that the Count will reinstate a law that would allow him to bed a servant girl on her wedding night before her husband ("droit du seigneur"), Figaro devises a plan to outsmart the Count. Moments later, Dr. Bartolo and his old housekeeper, Marcellina, enter Figaro's room. In order to repay a debt owed to Figaro, Marcellina wants Figaro to marry her - a promise he made to her if she is unable to repay what is owed. Dr. Bartolo, still upset that Figaro helped wed Count Almaviva to Rosina (via The Barber of Seville), agreed to help Marcellina. Before leaving, Susanna and Marcellina trade backhanded insults. Cherubino, the Count's godson, arrives and proclaims his intense infatuation with all women, especially the Countess, Rosina. The Count has plans to punish Cherubino after he was caught in the garden with Barbarina, the gardener's daughter. Cherubino asks Susanna to speak with the Countess on his behalf, hoping that she will intercede and thwart his punishment.

Cherubino quickly hides when he hears the Count approaching, fearing to be caught with Susanna alone. The Count, however, is delighted to see Susanna alone. He tries to allure Susanna, but is interrupted by the music master, Don Basilio. Basilio informs the Count that Cherubino has a crush on the Countess.

The Count then finds Cherubino hiding, which angers him even more. Figaro arrives with several servants and they praise the Count for abolishing the "droit du seigneur." However, the Count sends Cherubino away to join the army, then makes a plan to delay Figaro's wedding.

Le Nozze di Figaro, ACT 2

Within the Countess's chambers, Susanna is preparing the Countess for the day, when the Countess questions Susanna about the Count's fidelity. Susanna tells her that the Count has offered her money in return for her affections, but reassures her that she wants nothing to do with the Count. The Countess begins to craft a plan to discipline her husband and decides to disguise Cherubino as herself and arranges to meet the Count in secret. When Cherubino arrives, delighted to serve the Countess in any way he can, the two women giddily dress him up in lady clothes. After Susanna leaves to get some ribbon, the Count tries to enter the room but is furious to find the room locked. Cherubino hides inside the wardrobe before the Countess unlocks the door. Amidst their conversation, the Count hears a noise coming from the wardrobe. The Countess tells him it's only Susanna, but unbelieving, he takes her along with him to fetch some tools to pry open the wardrobe doors.

Having overhead everything from behind a screen, Susanna helps Cherubino escape out a window before the Count and Countess return. She gets in the wardrobe and waits. When the Count and Countess open the doors, they are both surprised, but the Count's suspicions subside. However, Antonio, the gardener, bursts in demanding an explanation why his beautiful flowers outside of the Countess's window have been crushed. Just then, Figaro enters the room feigning a sprained ankle after having jumped out the window. He is delighted to tell everyone that the wedding arrangements are completed. Then, Marcellina, Bartolo, and Basilio arrive with a court summons for Figaro and the Count happily postpones the wedding.

Le Nozze di Figaro, ACT 3

Within the wedding hall, Susanna tells the Count to meet her secretly within the garden that night.

But after seeing her speak with Figaro moments later, he feels he is being duped. He tells Figaro that he must marry Marcellina instead. Figaro protests and argues that he must first have the blessing of his parents, whom he was separated from at birth. After scouring through court documents, Figaro learns that his real name is Rafaello, the illegitimate son of Marcellina and Bartolo. The three share a warm reunion and Bartolo and Marcellina agree to have a dual wedding that night. Susanna arrives unknowing of the news, and seeing Figaro hugging Marcellina, she comes to the conclusion that Figaro has feelings for Marcellina. After confronting Figaro, she learns the truth and joins in their celebration. After everyone clears out of the hall, the Countess arrives, sulking of her lost love. Susanna comes back to update the Countess of their plan. The Countess writes a note to the Count instructing him to return the attached pin at their upcoming rendezvous. During the marriage ceremony, Susanna quickly passes the letter along to the Count. The Count, having pricked his finger, drops the letter and pin onto the floor.

Le Nozze di Figaro, ACT 4

In the garden after the wedding, Barbarina tells Figaro and Marcellina about the upcoming rendezvous between Susanna and the Count. Figaro leaves the garden moments before Susanna and the Countess arrive dressed in each other's clothes. After going over the details of their plan, the Countess (dressed as Susanna) stays behind in the garden and waits for the Count.

Meanwhile, Susanna sings of her love for Figaro, though Figaro mistakenly believes she is singing about the Count. When the Count meets with "Susanna" in the garden, the two make passionate love. He gives her a ring and she departs. Figaro finds Susanna disguised as the Countess, and upon recognizing her, he leads her on by confessing his love for her. Finally, she realizes he is only joking and knows that he has discovered the truth. The Count enters looking for Susanna, frustrated he is unable to find her. Finally, finding who he thinks is Susanna, he discovers that it is his wife. She scolds him for his foolishness while handing him the ring he gave to "Susanna." He begs for forgiveness and all is well.

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