Tue, Nov. 15, 2022, 7.00 pm - 10.30 pm |
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Le Nozze di Figaro
Introduction at 6.20 pm
During times of historical upheaval, the victors are filled with euphoric jubilation while fear spreads on the side of the losers. When cheerfulness grips the figures in Mozart’s piece, it is the swan song, full of schadenfreude, of dying structures, ancient privileges and traditional manners – including those between man and woman. Mozart (and Beaumarchais) hold the balance on the threshold between eras – as artists en route to self-marketing, as portraitists of their times, by precisely rendering a society whose balance is shifting, making Almaviva a ridiculous figure. His class is losing political power, and he compensates for this loss by becoming a slave to his sexual desire. The wind is blowing from the past, giving wing to Walter Benjamin’s angel of history. It is a storm for the winners, and for the losers a mere melancholy breeze. The angel sees nothing but ruins.
Director: Stefan Herheim
Set Designer: Christof Hetzer
Costume Designer: Gesine Völlm
Lighting Designer: Phoenix (Andreas Hofer)
Dramaturgy: Alexander Meier-Dörzenbach
In Italian with German and English surtitles
Supported by the Foundation for the Support of the Hamburg State Opera
On this day Figaro, Count Almaviva´s valet, plans to marry Susanna, the Countess´s chambermaid. They have been assigned a room between the apartments of the two nobles, in which Figaro makes arrangements for their conjugal bed. Susanna understands immediately what stands behind this rooming arrangement and enlightens Figaro with respect to the count´s erotic interest in her. Although the count has renounced his “droit du seigneur” – the right to spend the first night with the brides of his feudal territory – he has already made secret arrangements to bend Susanna to his will. Figaro plans to outwit the count.
Figaro has mortgaged his own self for a loan from Marcellina, the housekeeper of his former employer, Doctor Bartolo. If he is unable to pay her back, then, according to the certificate of debt, he must marry her. Bartolo is eager to help Marcellina into this marriage because he seeks revenge on Figaro, who once cunningly brought Bartolo´s ward, Rosina – now the Countess Almaviva – together with the count. When Marcellina runs into Susanna, she provokes her rival and they start a quarrel over feminine respectability.
The young page Cherubino was caught by the count in an amorous encounter with Barbarina, the gardener´s daughter. He is to be expelled from the court and asks Susanna to intervene on his behalf with the countess, who he desires just like Susanna and all the women in the world. When the count approaches, Cherubino hides. The count declares his love for Susanna but must also hide when the scheming music teacher Basilio turns up. Basilio tries to make the joy of multiple lovers palatable for Susanna, but he warns her not be as brazen as the page, who is clearly after the countess. Indignant, the count emerges and orders Basilio to seek the page, but right away he discovers Cherubino in his hiding place him-self. He accuses Susanna of playing a double game. She denies the charges and points out that the page has heard everything that the count said to her.
In order to expedite the wedding with Susanna, Figaro brings in a group of peasants who, under his direction, praise the count as the supposed protector of innocence. Under the pretext of wanting to make suitable preparations for the wedding, the count requests a postponement. He orders Cherubino to depart for Seville immediately and take up his service as a military officer. Figaro bids the page a suitably cryptic good bye.
The Countess Almaviva is heartsick due to her husband´s infidelity, which Susanna has reported to her, and agrees to Figaro´s plan: the count´s jealousy is to be inflamed by an anonymous letter falling into his hands with a hint that his wife has a lover. At the same time Susanna is to arrange for a rendezvous with the count, to which, however, Cherubino will appear, disguised as a girl. Figaro has kept the page from departing to Seville and sends him to the ladies. Cherubino, who is willing to pose as a girl, sings a song for the beloved countess and lets the ladies dress him up with pleasure.
The count finds the countess´s door locked. Before she lets him in the page hides in a closet. However, he knocks something down, which leads the count to suspect his wife´s lover exactly in that place. She claims that it is Susanna, but she refuses to open the closet and orders her chambermaid through the locked door not come out or to say a word. Actually hiding under the bed, Susanna hears how the count scolds and vilifies his wife. In order not to cause a scandal until her infidelity is proved, the count will fetch what is necessary to break down the door himself. He bids his wife to accompany him and locks all the doors to the room. While they are away, Cherubino jumps from the balcony into the garden and Susanna locks herself into the closet. The count returns with the countess. When he threatens to kill her lover, she tells him about Figaro´s plot: She confesses that Cherubino is in the closet and, maintaining her innocence, gives the count the key. Enraged, he wants to kill the page, but then Susanna emerges from the closet. The countess is just as surprised as the count, but she pretends that she had planed all of this with Susanna in order to test her husband. The count accuses them of cruelty; however, he apologizes and wishes to make peace. Then Figaro rushes in, who knows nothing about what has happened and thus will admit nothing. The situation comes to a head when the gardener Antonio comes in and reports that a man has jumped from the balcony into the garden. Figaro now claims that he himself jumped. When Antonio takes out the piece of paper that he found under the balcony, the count wants to know what exactly Figaro had lost when he jumped. The ladies recognize Cherubino´s officer´s commission. They give secret signs to Figaro, who can thus explain himself to the count, but without allaying the count´s suspicions with regard to Cherubino´s departure for Seville. When, on top of this, Marcellina, Bartolo and Basilio burst in in order to assert their claim against Figaro in court, all order seems to be dissolved.
New plans for and against the marriage of Figaro are being spun. Susanna promises to meet the count for an evening rendezvous in the garden, to which this time the countess herself, disguised as Susanna, is to appear. However, the count overhears how Susanna lets Figaro in on the plan. He swears revenge and will use the pending judgement of Don Curzio in the case of Marcellina as an opportunity. The countess gives Susanna the money to buy Figaro´s freedom, but not without revealing how humiliating the struggle for her husband´s love is for her.
At the trial, it emerges that Marcellina and Bartolo are actually Figaro´s parents. They now have nothing against his marriage to Susanna and even decide to make it a double wedding. The count is in an inner rage and searches for further means to delay the ceremony.
The countess is resolved to stay with her plan. This time she dictates to Susanna a written invitation to the count and seals it with a pin, which he is to return as a sign of his acceptance. Barbarina brings the countess flowers, together with a few young girls and Cherubino in disguise. The count bursts in with Antonio, recognizes the page and is about to punish him for his disobedience, but Barbarina manages to protect him. She asks the count to grant her the wish he promised her in return for her being perpetually available: she requests Cherubino as her husband. All of the count´s attempts to claim the women of his court for himself have failed. He can no longer hinder the marriage of Figaro. During the ceremony, Susanna secretly slips the letter to him. In the happy anticipation of his tryst with the bride, the count invites everyone to a lavish celebrat-ion.
Barbarina has lost the pin that the count gave her, instructing her to return it to Susanna as a sign of his willingness. Figaro gives her a different pin, and thus learns about the presumed infidelity of his bride. Believing to be betrayed by Susanna on his wedding day, he now will spy her out. In the garden, Susanna invokes the enchantment of love and exchanges clothes with the countess. Dressed up as Susanna, the countess is first pressured by Cherubino´s advances. The count chases him away in order to make his own erotic offers to the presumed Susanna. All of this happens under the eyes of Figaro, who then approaches the supposed countess. However, he recognizes the voice of his disguised wife and thus her intention to trick him as a punishment for his suspicions. He makes advances to her as the countess. Now Susanna believes herself to be betrayed and starts beating him until Figaro clarifies the double deception to her. They make up and continue their amorous play in front of the count, who angrily calls the entire company together. In spite of their collective pleading, he resolves to show no mercy. He realizes his injustice only when his wife lets her disguise fall. He asks for forgiveness. She grants it to him. In conclusion everyone hurries to celebrate the day of madness that for all turned into a night.
Translation: Mark Bruce