An Abbreviated Summary of LE NOZZE DI FIGARO (with selected arias included)
Primary Characters Count Almaviva Countess Rosina Figaro – the Count’s valet, engaged to Susanna Susanna – the Countess’ maid, engaged to Figaro Marcelilna – an older woman that Figaro owes money to Dr. Bartolo – Marcellina’s companion Cherubino – a young page (pants role) Basilio – the Countess’ music teacher Antonio – a Gardener Barbarina – Antonio’s daughter
ACT I A manor house near Seville, the 1930s. In a storeroom that they have been allocated, Figaro and Susanna, servants to the Count and Countess Almaviva, are preparing for their wedding. Figaro is furious when he learns from his bride that the count has tried to seduce her. He’s determined to have revenge on his master. (Se vuol ballare signor contino) Dr. Bartolo appears with his former housekeeper, Marcellina, who is equally determined to marry Figaro. She has a contract: Figaro must marry her or repay the money he borrowed from her. When Marcellina runs into Susanna, the two rivals exchange insults. (Via resti servita) Susanna returns to her room, and an adolescent boy, Cherubino, rushes in. Finding Susanna alone, he speaks of his love for all the women in the house, particularly the countess. (Non so più, cosa son) The count appears, again trying to seduce Susanna, and Cherubino hides. The count then conceals himself as well when Basilio, the music teacher, approaches. Basilio tells Susanna that everyone knows Cherubino has a crush on the countess. This causes the count to step forward in anger. He becomes even more enraged when he discovers Cherubino and realizes that the boy has overheard his attempts to seduce Susanna. He chases Cherubino into the great hall where they are met by Figaro, who has assembled the entire household to sing the praises of their master. The count is forced to bless the marriage of Figaro and Susanna. To spite them and to silence Cherubino, he orders the boy to join the army without delay. Figaro ironically tells Cherubino what to expect there—no flirting with girls, no fancy clothes, no money, just cannons, bullets, marching, and mud. (Non più andrai)
ACT II In her bedroom, Rosina, the countess, mourns the loss of love in her life. (Porgi, amor) Encouraged by Figaro and Susanna, she agrees to set a trap for her husband: they will send Cherubino, disguised as Susanna, to a rendezvous with the count that night and at the same time make him believe that the countess is having an assignation with another man. Cherubino appears and the two women lock the door, then begin to dress him up as a girl. (Voi, che sapete) While Susanna steps into an adjoining room, the count knocks and is annoyed to find the door locked. Cherubino shuts himself in the dressing room and the countess lets her husband in. When there’s a sudden noise from the dressing room, the count is skeptical of his wife’s story that Susanna is in there. Taking his wife with him, he leaves to get tools to force the door. Meanwhile, Susanna, who has re-entered the room unseen and observed everything, helps Cherubino escape through the window before taking his place in the dressing room. When the count and countess return, both are astonished when Susanna emerges from the room. All seems well until the gardener, Antonio, appears, complaining that someone has jumped from the window, trampling his flowers. Figaro, who has rushed in to announce that everything is ready for the wedding, improvises quickly, feigning a limp and pretending that it was he who jumped. At that moment Bartolo, Marcellina, and Basilio arrive, putting their case to the count and waving the contract that obliges Figaro to marry Marcellina. Delighted, the count declares that Figaro must honor his agreement and that his wedding to Susanna will be postponed.
ACT III Later in the day in the great hall, Susanna leads the count on with promises of a rendezvous that night. He is overjoyed but then overhears Susanna conspiring with Figaro. In a rage, he declares he will have revenge. (Hai già vinta la causa) The countess, alone, recalls her past happiness. (Dove sono i bei momenti) Marcellina, supported by a lawyer, Don Curzio, demands that Figaro pay his debt or marry her at once. Figaro replies that he can’t marry without the consent of his parents for whom he’s been searching for years, having been abducted as a baby. When he reveals a birthmark on his arm Marcellina realizes that he is her long-lost son, fathered by Bartolo. Arriving to see Figaro and Marcellina embracing, Susanna thinks her fiancé has betrayed her, but she is pacified when she learns the truth. The countess is determined to go through with the conspiracy against her husband, and she and Susanna compose a letter to him confirming the rendezvous with Susanna that evening in the garden. (Sull’aria) Cherubino, now dressed as a girl, appears with his girlfriend, Barbarina, the daughter of Antonio. Antonio, who has found Cherubino’s cap, also arrives and unmasks the young man. The count is furious to discover that Cherubino has disobeyed him and is still in the house. But his anger is punctured by Barbarina, who reveals that the count, when he attempted to seduce her, promised her anything she wanted. What she wants now is to marry Cherubino. The count is forced to agree. A march is heard and the household assembles for Figaro and Susanna’s wedding. While dancing with the count, Susanna hands him the letter, sealed with a pin, confirming their rendezvous that evening.
ACT IV At night in the garden, Barbarina despairs that she has lost the pin the count has asked her to take back to Susanna as a sign he’s received her letter. When Figaro and Marcellina appear, Barbarina tells them about the planned rendezvous between the count and Susanna. Thinking that his bride is unfaithful, Figaro rants against all women. He hides when Susanna and the countess arrive, dressed in each other’s clothes. Alone, Susanna sings of love. (Deh vieni, non tardar) She knows that Figaro is listening and enjoys making him think that she’s about to make love to the count. She then also conceals herself—in time to see Cherubino try to seduce the disguised countess. The boy is chased away by the count who wants to be alone with the woman he believes is Susanna. Figaro, by now realizing what is going on, joins in the joke and declares his passion for Susanna in her countess disguise. The count returns to discover Figaro with his wife, or so he thinks, and explodes with rage. At that moment, the real countess steps forward and reveals her identity. Ashamed, the count asks her pardon. After many moments of agonizing doubt, she forgives him and both couples are reunited.