Loving Two Leading Ladies in The Marriage of Figaro

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“My happiness is in your hands.”1 This is the Countess’ plea as Susanna enters the Count’s study. She is about to accept the Count’s offer to meet after her wedding at her mistress’s request. This riveting scene in “The Marriage of Figaro” premiered on the stage of the Burgtheater in Vienna on May 1st, 1986.2 With the music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, the Italian opera was an adaption of Pierre- Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais’ play “The Follies of a Day or, The Marriage of Figaro”. The play finally made it to the stage on April 27th, 1984, of the Comedie-Française after being banned by King Joseph II and being revised by a second censor board.3 “The Marriage of Figaro” takes place on the wedding day of the Count’s valet, Figaro, and the Countess’s personal maid, Susanna. The Count, who has foresworn the feudal custom of a master deflowering any female servant, has his eyes set on Susanna. Susanna, Figaro, and the Countess plot to reveal the Count’s infidelity. The Countess, lonely and heartbroken, convinces Susanna to arrange a meeting with the Count following her wedding, where the Countess will go in Susanna’s place. Troubles arise, including an amorous teenage boy, a mother with misguided affections and a sour gardener. As plots thicken and confusion grows, all is revealed in the end, and the follies of the day are resolved. While the title features Figaro as the main character, it could be argued that the story revolves around Susanna. Susanna’s development throughout the play can be analyzed on three levels: her individual character, her role in the relationship she and the Countess develop, and the function of their relationship in the greater scheme of the play. Mozart had a great appr... ... middle of paper ... ...Countess would never have been able to resurrect her spirit and rise up to help foil the Count’s plan. It is thanks to Susanna that the Countess rediscovers herself, and gratitude is owed to the Countess for helping the marriage of Susanna and Figaro to successful transpire. The letter aria is the pinnacle of their friendship, and “the only duet [written by Mozart] that portrays both females in a favorable light.”15 He sought to depict a state of equality between the two, despite social differences, in which they would “be defined by the nobility of their souls rather than their social rank.”16 Here we see the ideals of the Enlightenment shine through, as Mozart gives us a glimpse of a world without class barriers, where two people build a relationship on mutual respect, and judge each other by their actions in relation to their character, not their social station.

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