Le nozze di Figaro, ossia la folle giornata (The Marriage of Figaro, or The Day of Madness), K. 492, is an opera buffa 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.

The Marriage of Figaro is a continuation of the plot of The Barber of Seville several years later, and recounts a single "day of madness" (la folle giornata) in the palace of the Count Almaviva near Seville, Spain. Rosina is now the Countess; Dr. Bartolo is seeking revenge against Figaro for thwarting his plans to marry Rosina himself; and Count Almaviva has degenerated from the romantic youth of Barber into a scheming, bullying, skirt-chasing baritone. Having gratefully given Figaro a job as head of his servant-staff, he is now persistently trying to obtain the favors of Figaro's bride-to-be, Susanna. He keeps finding excuses to delay the civil part of the wedding of his two servants, which is arranged for this very day. Figaro, Susanna, and the Countess conspire to embarrass the Count and expose his scheming. He responds by trying to compel Figaro legally to marry a woman old enough to be his mother, but it turns out at the last minute that she is really his mother. Through Figaro's and Susanna's clever manipulations, the Count's love for his Countess is finally restored.

The opera was the first of three collaborations between Mozart and Da Ponte (with 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 - Although Beaumarchais's Marriage of Figaro was at first banned in Vienna because of its licentiousness, Mozart's librettist managed to get the libretto approved by the Emperor, Joseph II. In particular, Da Ponte replaced Figaro's climactic speech against inherited nobility with an equally angry aria against unfaithful wives.

Synopsis (Courtesy of Opera News, http://www.metoperafamily.org/metope...sis.aspx?id=13)

ACT I. A country estate outside Seville, late eighteenth century. While preparing for their wedding, the valet Figaro learns from the maid Susanna that their philandering employer, Count Almaviva, has designs on her. At this the servant vows to outwit his master. Before long the scheming Bartolo enters the servants' quarters with his housekeeper, Marcellina, who wants Figaro to marry her to cancel a debt he cannot pay. After Marcellina and Susanna trade insults, the amorous page Cherubino arrives, reveling in his infatuation with all women. He hides when the Count shows up, furious because he caught Cherubino flirting with Barbarina, the gardener's daughter. The Count pursues Susanna but conceals himself when the gossiping music master Don Basilio approaches. The Count steps forward, however, when Basilio suggests that Cherubino has a crush on the Countess. Almaviva is enraged further when he discovers Cherubino in the room. Figaro returns with fellow servants, who praise the Count's progressive reform in abolishing the droit du seigneur — the right of a noble to take a manservant's place on his wedding night. Almaviva assigns Cherubino to his regiment in Seville and leaves Figaro to cheer up the unhappy adolescent.

ACT II. In her boudoir, the Countess laments her husband's waning love but plots to chasten him, encouraged by Figaro and Susanna. They will send Cherubino, disguised as Susanna, to a romantic assignation with the Count. Cherubino, smitten with the Countess, appears, and the two women begin to dress the page for his farcical rendezvous. While Susanna goes out to find a ribbon, the Count knocks at the door, furious to find it locked. Cherubino quickly hides in a closet, and the Countess admits her husband, who, when he hears a noise, is skeptical of her story that Susanna is inside the wardrobe. He takes his wife to fetch some tools with which to force the closet door. Meanwhile, Susanna, having observed everything from behind a screen, helps Cherubino out a window, then takes his place in the closet. Both Count and Countess are amazed to find her there. All seems well until the gardener, Antonio, storms in with crushed geraniums from a flower bed below the window. Figaro, who has run in to announce that the wedding is ready, pretends it was he who jumped from the window, faking a sprained ankle. Marcellina, Bartolo and Basilio burst into the room waving a court summons for Figaro, which delights the Count, as this gives him an excuse to delay the wedding.

ACT III. In an audience room where the wedding is to take place, Susanna leads the Count on with promises of a rendezvous in the garden. The nobleman, however, grows doubtful when he spies her conspiring with Figaro; he vows revenge. Marcellina is astonished but thrilled to discover that Figaro is in fact her long-lost natural son by Bartolo. Mother and son embrace, provoking Susanna's anger until she too learns the truth. Finding a quiet moment, the Countess recalls her past happiness, then joins Susanna in composing a letter that invites the Count to the garden that night. Later, during the marriage ceremony of Figaro and Susanna, the bride manages to slip the note, sealed with a hatpin, to the Count, who pricks his finger, dropping the pin, which Figaro retrieves.

ACT IV. In the moonlit garden, Barbarina, after unsuccessfully trying to find the lost hatpin, tells Figaro and Marcellina about the coming assignation between the Count and Susanna. Basilio counsels that it is wise to play the fool. Figaro inveighs against women and leaves, missing Susanna and the Countess, ready for their masquerade. Alone, Susanna rhapsodizes on her love for Figaro, but he, overhearing, thinks she means the Count. Susanna hides in time to see Cherubino woo the Countess — now disguised in Susanna's dress — until Almaviva chases him away and sends his wife, who he thinks is Susanna, to an arbor, to which he follows. By now Figaro understands the joke and, joining the fun, makes exaggerated love to Susanna in her Countess disguise. The Count returns, seeing, or so he thinks, Figaro with his wife. Outraged, he calls everyone to witness his judgment, but now the real Countess appears and reveals the ruse. Grasping the truth at last, the Count begs her pardon. All are reunited, and so ends this "mad day" at the court of the Almavivas.

The Performance

Our conductor today, Hans Rosbaud, was the first conductor from Germany to be invited to appear in France after the war, and was warmly received. In 1948, he took up the position we associate most with him, that of chief conductor of the South West German Radio Orchestra, Baden-Baden, where he was based for the rest of his life. A prime mover in the establishment of the Aix-en-Provence Festival from 1948 onwards, Rosbaud appeared there annually until 1959. He added to his responsibilities in 1950 when he became conductor of the Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra and at the Zürich Opera, assuming the role of chief conductor of the Tonhalle in 1957. His successes at Baden-Baden and at the neighbouring Donaueschingen Festival of Contemporary Music, following its resumption in 1950, led to his international recognition. During the 1950s he became especially noted for his performances of the music of Schoenberg: at only eight days’ notice, he took over from Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt as the conductor of the first performance (which was recorded) of Schoenberg’s opera Moses und Aron in 1954 in Hamburg and he conducted the work’s stage première at Zürich in 1957. Rosbaud’s fame was reflected in his activity as a guest conductor of the major European orchestras and in his concert tours abroad, notably to South America, South Africa and the United States. He made a particularly strong impression with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and was seriously considered as a successor to Fritz Reiner, a move that was prevented by his untimely death in 1962.

Le nozze di Figaro, ossia la folle giornata, K. 492

Theresa Stich-Randall (La Contessa di Almaviva)
Rita Streich (Susanna)
Pilar Lorengar (Cherubino)
Heinz Rehfuss (Il Conte di Almaviva)
Rolando Panerai (Figaro)
Christiane Gayraud (Marcellina)
Marcello Cortis (Bartolo)
André Vessières (Antonio)
Madeleine Ignal (Barbarina)
Hughes Cuénod (Don Basilio)
Gérard Friedmann (Don Curzio)
Chorale Elisabeth Brasseur
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire
Hans Rosbaud
(Recording of a performance at the Aix-en-Provence Festival)
Recording info (AMG) http://www.allmusic.com/album/mozart...o-mw0001377006

LIBRETTO: http://opera.stanford.edu/iu/libretti/figaro.htm
Link to Performance (MQCD Musique Classique) : http://www.mqcd-musique-classique.co...ead.php?t=4586