The Marriage of Figaro - Overture

Wolfgang A. Mozart
Year of composition
Difficult (Grades 7+)
4 minutes
Classical music
String quartet
Instrumental parts
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By the time Mozart had settled in Vienna he had developed a keen sense of the dramatic. Evidence comes not only in the meticulous attention to detail that emerges from the series of letters exchanged with his librettist Gianbattista Varesco during the composition of Idomeneo in 1781, but also from the knowledge that during his early years in the capital he spent much time searching for a libretto that would suit his dramatic requirements. Two comic operas, L'oca del Cairo (The Goose of Cairo), K. 422, and Lo sposo deluso (The Deluded Bridegroom), K. 430, were started in 1783, only to be put to one side because Mozart had obviously become aware of dramatic weaknesses. The libretto for the latter has been attributed to the Viennese court poet, Lorenzo da Ponte, whom Mozart had met in 1783 and was keen to work with. Two years later Da Ponte finally came up with the libretto Mozart had been searching for. The subject was both attractive and potentially dangerous. Le Mariage de Figaro by the French playwright Beaumarchais was a sequel to his popular Le Barbier de S?ville. First given in Paris in 1784, it had become an enormous success in both France and England, where its disrespectful treatment of the nobility had resulted in a certain notoriety. For that reason it had been banned in Vienna. Yet the attractions of attempting to get a version past the court censors were considerable. There was naturally much curiosity about the play in Vienna, while an operatic version of its predecessor by the Italian composer Giovanni Paisiello had proved immensely popular. Da Ponte skillfully toned down some of the more contentious parts of the play, while Mozart set to work on the results, a four-act opera buffa completed on April 29, 1786 (the date Le nozze di Figaro was entered in Mozart's own catalog). The librettist had done his work well; he was able to persuade Joseph II that an unacceptable play had been transformed into an opera that would not cause offense. The first performance took place at the Burgtheater on May 1, 1786. The opera was not the success with the Viennese public that Mozart and his librettist had hoped for, being withdrawn after only nine performances. Yet disappointment was to prove short-lived. Nine months later Figaro was mounted by the opera company in Prague, where it caused such a sensation that the delighted composer was able to report that the tunes were sung and whistled throughout the Bohemian capital. The opera had achieved a triumph that not only led to Prague commissioning a new opera, Don Giovanni, but also started its career as one of the best-loved operas in the entire repertoire.

This arrangement comes with an additional bass part for use with string orchestra.

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