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Opera Abbreviated: The Marriage of Figaro

The Metropolitan Opera presents a new production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro live in HD in cinemas worldwide on Saturday, October 18 at 1.30 p.m. For  more information, check here:

Pierre Auguste Caron de Beaumarchais (1733-1799) became infamous for three plays centered around Figaro: The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro and The Guilty Mother.

Eighteenth century France did not allow a servant to outsmart his master, and rumor had it that any young bride in service to a nobleman was taken by him before her wedding night. Out of this nasty ferment comes an opera that is joyful, miraculous and sometimes troubling: Le nozze di Figaro.

The Figaro plays were brought to Mozart's attention by a randy libertine-turned-priest-turned back to libertine Lorenzo da Ponte, who had a way with the written word. I suspect that both Mozart and da Ponte gleefully embraced this attempt to admonish the nobility.

The Figaro plays were banned in France. Marie-Antoinette actually performed in them in her own theater, thereby opening the path to the guillotine.

Mozart and da Ponte were prudent. The libretto to Le nozze di Figaro is in Italian and the action is set, of course, in Spain. This was considered safe enough to mollify the Austrian court. The emperor loved Mozart's opera; the Viennese were tolerant. Prague made Le nozze di Figaro a bona fide hit.

The age of Voltaire and the rights of man leading to the French revolution got a boost from Beaumarchais, da Ponte and Mozart no less. A nasty count is outwitted and embarrassed. The opera includes an unhappy Countess with a stunning C major aria, Figaro and his fiancee Susanna-she's the smartest person in any room-the elderly Marcellina and Bartolo, and Cherubino, the young page boy.

What's not to love? The Metropolitan's new production of Le nozze di Figaro is set in fascist era Spain. Both the count and Figaro are devastatingly handsome as sung by Peter Mattei and Ildar Abrazakhov.

Most of all, Mozart's music and dramatic flair work their magic. For the many adjectives useful in describing this opera, one stands out: Glorious.

Christopher Purdy is Classical 101's early morning host, 7-10 a.m. weekdays. He is host and producer of Front Row Center – Classical 101’s weekly celebration of Opera and more – as well as Music in Mid-Ohio, Concerts at Ohio State, and the Columbus Symphony broadcast series. He is the regular pre-concert speaker for Columbus Symphony performances in the Ohio Theater.