Seville Operas - Marriage of Figaro

Marriage of Figaro - Mozart

by Fiona Flores Watson

Following on from The Barber of Seville, this comic opera, also set in the city, picks up the story three years on.

Count Almaviva is now married to Rosina. Figaro, the barber and all-round fixer, is engaged to Susana, the Countess' maid. The Count, now an older and more lecherous version of the romantic young man we saw in Rossini's opera, tries to seduce Susanna, and the couple teach him a lesson in fidelity. This involves the usual complicated plotting and comical mistaken identities, while also restoring his love for his wife, the Countess Rosina.

The story has an element of social criticism, implying that the rich and powerful are incapable of solving their own problems, and that the working classes have to help them out.

Apparently the opera, also called The Mad Day, was so well-attended on its opening night in Vienna in 1786, that three people were crushed to death in the crowd. Its popularity has not waned, and it is still one of the most-performed operas in the world.

French playwright Beaumarchais wrote the two plays upon which the operas, The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro, were based. Beaumarchais himself was inspired to create his Figaro by a character of the same name from Spanish literature, found in Cervantes' El Celoso Extremeño (The Jealous Extremaduran).

Emperor Joseph II wanted to ban the play by Beaumarchais "since the piece contains much that is objectionable, I therefore expect that the Censor shall......reject it altogether".

Mozart collaborated on the opera with librettist Da Ponte; the pair also worked together on Don Giovanni.

Seville locations

You can follow a route called the Figaro Myth, as part of the Seville, City of Opera programme (on the Seville Tourism app). This introduces you to Santa Cruz Quarter, and explains the plot and characters of the opera, as well as its social and historic context. A highlight is Rosina's Balcony in Plaza Alfaro next to the Alcazar rear wall, popularly believed to be where Figaro advises the young Count of Almaviva to climb in search of his true love, and where Rosina sings her aria of her love for her suitor. The route is 1.6km and takes 1 hour 10 minutes.