Great moments in opera: Le Nozze di Figaro

September 2, 2010

A fair number of opera lovers would name Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro as their favourite of Mozart’s operas, and even as their favourite opera of all.  I am not in either group — Cosi fan tutte takes my Mozartian palm, and I would have to think hard before naming my very favourite opera — but I agree that Le Nozze di Figaro is easy to love.  It was the first of the three marvelous operas that Mozart worked on with the librettist Lorenzo da Ponte, and the collaboration clearly stimulated Mozart’s muse.  These three — Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi fan tutte — are celebrated for their sparkling music, magnificent ensemble pieces, and unprecedented psychological acuity.  They really are wonderful to hear.

Trying to select a “great moment” from Le Nozze di Figaro is like trying to find hay in a haystack: one is spoiled for choice.  The list of arias alone reads like an operatic hit parade: Voi che sapete, Non più andrai, Porgi amor, and Dove sono being chief among them.  But, in my opinion, the greatest section of the opera is the celebrated Act II finale.  In one of his letters (which I am unable to find online), Mozart wrote about his conception of this finale: twenty minutes of continuous music in which new characters keep coming on stage, first three, then four, then five, then six, and then seven!  With each entry, the new voice is added to the mixture, mounting up to a spectacular septet.  Nothing like this had been attempted in opera before, and Mozart pulled it off wonderfully.

At twenty minutes long, this finale hardly qualifies as a “moment”, but, nonetheless, here it is.  This is from a 2006 production at the Royal Opera House in London, conducted by Antonio Pappano.  English subtitles are included, but it might make more sense if you glance at a plot synopsis for Acts I and II before listening.

4 Responses to “Great moments in opera: Le Nozze di Figaro

  1. Pentimento Says:

    The recognition sextet in Act III is pretty awesome too.

  2. cburrell Says:

    Indeed it is. Thanks, Pentimento.


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