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02 Dec 2019

MOZART: The Marriage of Figaro

by Michael Clive

Overture

“Non so più cosa son”

“Voi che sapete”

It all begins with five notes: a quick trill that starts on the first tone of the major scale, tugging us eagerly by the sleeve and pulling us headlong into a joyful overture that starts fast and intense, then gets more so. Welcome to Le Nozze di Figaro, “The Marriage of Figaro,” Mozart’s 1786 opera and the first of his magnificent collaborations with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte.

Much of the romantic hubbub in Nozze is propelled by Cherubino, a comic character whose charm and energy steal every scene he’s in.  Sung by a mezzo-soprano— i.e., “in disguise” as a male — Cherubino is a randy adolescent boy who has only one thing on his mind: He gets an immediate crush on every woman he sees. In the context of the opera, “Non so più” and “Voi che sapete” are songs he has written to express this sweet confusion. In his Act I aria, “Non so più,” we hear his breathlessness and desperation as he describes to Susanna his need to declare is feelings of love at every moment, waking or sleeping, in company or alone. By Act II, when he sings “Voi che sapete,” he is calmer, and in his song he beseeches the more experienced Susanna and the Countess Almaviva to counsel him in the ways of love.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart