May 1, 1786, The Marriage of Figaro opened at the Burgtheater in Vienna. Five encores were performed opening night, seven at the second performance. For the third performance, posters were drawn up notifying the public that “no piece for more than a single voice is to be repeated” because the opera was becoming excessively long with several encores.
Based on a play that was banned in France, The Marriage of Figaro waded into sensitive territory — social classes — and made the Austrian monarchy nervous. But it seems Da Ponte’s Italian libretto was subtle and witty enough to fly under the radar and simultaneously make for a clever and hilarious opera. Likewise, Mozart’s genius produced a sophisticated and infectious score that audiences could tunefully remember.
In this emotional final act, you’ll see comic switcheroos and marital challenges playing out in operatic Italian. Do yourself the favor of learning the story, if you don’t already know it, and you’ll enjoy it that much more!
Are love and marriage as complicated as The Marriage of Figaro? Tracy McMillan 2014 TED Talk may change your mind.