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Le nozze di Figaro, ossia la folle giornata (The Marriage of Figaro, or The Day of Madness), K. 492, is an opera buffa (comic opera) composed in 1786 in four acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with a libretto in Italian by Lorenzo Da Ponte, based on a stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro (1784).
Beaumarchais's earlier play The Barber of Seville had already made a successful transition to opera in a version by Paisiello. Although Beaumarchais's Marriage of Figaro was at first banned in Vienna because of its licentiousness, Mozart's librettist managed to get official approval for an operatic version which eventually achieved great success.
The overture is especially famous and is often played as a concert piece.
The opera was the first of three collaborations between Mozart and Da Ponte; their later collaborations were Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte. It was Mozart who originally selected Beaumarchais's play and brought it to Da Ponte, who turned it into a libretto in six weeks, rewriting it in poetic Italian and removing all of the original's political references. In particular, Da Ponte replaced Figaro's climactic speech against inherited nobility with an equally angry aria against unfaithful wives. Contrary to the popular myth, the libretto was approved by the Emperor, Joseph II, before any music was written by Mozart.
The Imperial Italian opera company paid Mozart 450 florins for the work; this was three times his (low) salary for a year, when he had worked as a court musician in Salzburg.Da Ponte was paid 200 florins.
The Marriage of Figaro is scored for two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, and strings; the recitativi are accompanied by a keyboard instrument, usually a fortepiano or a harpsichord, often joined by a cello. The instrumentation of the recitativi is not given in the score, so it is up to the conductor and the performers. A typical performance usually lasts around 3 hours.
Frequently omitted numbers
Two arias from act 4 are usually omitted: one in which Marcellina regrets that people (unlike animals) abuse their mates (Il capro e la capretta), and one in which Don Basilio tells how he saved himself from several dangers in his youth, by using the skin of an ass for shelter and camouflage (In quegli anni).
In spite of all the sorrow, anxiety, and anger the characters experience, only one number is in a minor key: Barbarina's brief aria L'ho perduta at the beginning of act 4, where she mourns the loss of the pin and worries about what her master will say when she fails to deliver it, is written in F minor. Other than this, the entire opera is set in major keys except the opening few bars of the duet between Susanna and the Count at the beginning of act 3 ("Crudel, perché finora") which are in the key of A minor; the duet then quickly modulate via C major to A major.
Mozart uses the sound of two horns playing together to represent cuckoldry, in the act 4 aria "Aprite un po quelli'ochi". Verdi later used the same device in Ford's aria in Falstaff.
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Music License: Public Domain
Music Source: http://blog.musopen.org/post/29482882056/done-and-done-musopen-kickstarter-project
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