BEAUMARCHAIS wrote a trilogy of Figaro comedies, and if the tastes and methods of a century or so ago had been like those of the present, we might have had also a trilogy of Figaro operas “Le Barbier de Seville,” “Le Mariage de Figaro,” and “La Mère coupable.” As it is, we have operatic versions of the first two of the comedies, Mozart’s “Nozze di Figaro” being a sequel to Rossini’s “Il Barbiere,” its action beginning at a period not long after the precautions of Dr. Bartolo had been rendered inutile by Figaro’s cunning schemes and Almaviva had installed Rosina as his countess. “Le Nozze” was composed a whole generation before Rossini’s opera. Mozart and his public could keep the sequence of incidents in view, however, from the fact that Paisiello had acquainted them with the beginning of the story. Paisiello’s opera is dead, but Rossini’s is very much alive, and it might prove interesting, some day, to have the two living operas brought together in performance in order to note the effect produced upon each other by comparison of their scores. One effect, I fancy, would be to make the elder of the operas sound younger than its companion, because of the greater variety and freshness, as well as dramatic vigor, of its music. But though the names of many of the characters would be the same, we should scarcely recognize their musical physiognomies. We should find the sprightly Rosina of “Il Barbiere” changed into a mature lady with a countenance sicklied o’er with the pale cast of a gentle melancholy; the Count’s tenor would, in the short interval, have changed into barytone; Figaro’s barytone into a bass, while the buffo-bass of Don Basilio would have reversed the process with age and gone up-ward into the tenor region. We should meet with some new characters, of which two at least would supply the element of dramatic freshness and vivacity which we should miss from the company of the first opera Susanna and Cherubino.
We should also, in all likelihood, be struck by the difference in the moral atmosphere of the two works. It took Beaumarchais three years to secure a public performance of his “Mariage de Figaro” because of the opposition of the French court, with Louis XVI at its head, to its too frank libertinism. This opposition spread also to other royal and imperial personages, who did not relish the manner in which the poet had castigated the nobility, exalted the intellectuality of menials, and satirized the social and political conditions which were generally prevalent a short time before the French Revolution. Neither of the operas, however, met the obstacles which blocked the progress of the comedies on which they are founded, because Da Ponte, who wrote the book for Mozart, and Sterbini, who was Rossini’s librettist, judiciously and deftly elided the objectionable political element. “Le Nozze” is by far the more ingeniously constructed play of the two (though a trifle too involved for popular comprehension in the original language), but “Il Barbiere” has the advantage of freedom from the moral grossness which pollutes its companion. For the unspoiled taste of the better class of opera patrons, there is a livelier as well as a lovelier charm in the story of Almaviva’s adventures while outwitting Dr. Bartolo and carrying o ‘trie winsome Rosina to be his countess than in the depiction of his amatory intrigues after marriage. In fact, there is some-thing especially repellent in the Count’s lustful pursuit of the bride of the man to whose intellectual resourcefulness he owed the successful outcome of his own wooing.
It is, indeed, a fortunate thing for Mozart’s music that so few opera-goers understand Italian nowadays. The play is a moral blister, and the less intelligible it is made by excisions in its dialogue, the better, in one respect, for the virtuous sensibilities of its auditors. One point which can be sacrificed without detriment to the music and at only a trifling cost to the comedy (even when it is looked upon from the viewpoint which prevailed in Europe at the period of its creation) is that which Beau-marchais relied on chiefly to add piquancy to the conduct of the Count. Almaviva, we are given to understand, on his marriage with Rosina had voluntarily abandoned an ancient seignorial right, described by Susanna as “certe mezz’ ore che il diritto feudale,” but is desirous of reviving the practice in the case of the Countess’s bewitching maid on the eve of her marriage to his valet. It is this discovery which induces Figaro to invent his scheme for expediting the wedding, and lends a touch of humor to the scene in which Figaro asks that he and his bride enjoy the first-fruits o the reform while the villagers lustily hymn the merits of their “virtuous” lord; but the too frank discussion of the subject with ‘ which the dialogue teems might easily be avoided. The opera, like all the old works of the lyrical stage, is in sad need of intelligent revision and thorough study, so that its dramatic as well as its musical beauties may be preserved. There is no lovelier merit in Mozart’s music than the depth and tenderness with which the honest love of Susanna for Figaro and the Countess for her lord are published ; and it is no demerit that the volatile passion of the adolescent Cherubino and the frolicsome, scintillant, vivacious spirit of the plotters are also given voice. Mozart’s music could not be all that it is if it did not enter fully and unreservedly into the spirit of the comedy; it is what it is because whenever the opportunity presented itself, he raised it into the realm of the ideal. Yet Mozart was no Puritan. He swam along gayly and contentedly on the careless current of life as it was lived in Vienna and elsewhere in the closing decades of the eighteenth century, and was not averse, merely for the fun of the thing, to go even a step beyond his librettist when the chance offered. Here is an instance in point : The plotters have been working a little at cross-purposes, each seeking his own advantages, and their plans are about to be put to the test when Figaro temporarily loses confidence in the honesty of Susanna. With his trust in her falls to the ground his faith in all woman-kind. He rails against the whole sex in the air, beginning : “Aprite un po’ quegl’ occhi?” in the last act. Enumerating the moral blemishes of women, he at length seems to be fairly choked by his own spleen, and bursts out at the end with “Il resto nol dico, gia ognuno lo sa” (“The rest I’ll not tell you everybody knows it”). The orchestra stops, all but the horns, which with the phrase aided by a traditional gesture (the singer’s fore-fingers pointing upward from his forehead), complete his meaning. It is a pity that the air is often omitted, for it is eloquent in the exposition of the spirit of the comedy.
The merriest of opera overtures introduces “Le Nozze di Figaro,” and puts the listener at once into a frolicsome mood. It seems to be the most careless of little pieces, drawing none of its material from the music of the play, making light of some of the formulas which demanded respect at the time (there is no free fantasia), laughing and singing its innocent life out in less than five minutes as if it were breathing an atmosphere of pure oxygen. It romps ; it does not reflect or feel. Motion is its business, not emotion. It has no concern with the deep and gentle feelings of the play, but only with its frolic. The spirit of playful torment, the disposition of a pretty tease, speaks out of its second subject: and one may, if one wishes, hear the voice of only half-serious admonition in the phrase of the basses, which the violins echo as if in mockery.
But, on the whole, the overture does not ask for analysis or interpretation; it is satisfied to express untrammelled joy in existence.
The curtain is withdrawn, and we discover the lovers preparing for their wedding. Figaro is taking the dimensions of a room, and the first motive of a duet illustrates his measured paces; Susanna is trimming a hat, and her happiness and her complacent satisfaction with her handiwork are published in the second motive, whose innocent joy explodes in scintillant semi-quavers in the fiddles at the third measure. His labors ended, Figaro joins Susanna in her utterances of joy. But there is a fly in the ointment. Why has Figaro been so busily measuring the room? To test its fitness as their chamber, for the Count has assigned it to them, though it is one of the best rooms in the palace. He points out its convenient location (duet : “Se a caso madama “) ; so near. the room of the Countess that her maid can easily answer the “din din” of her bell, and near enough to the room of the Count that his “don don” would never sound in vain should he wish to send his valet on an errand. Al-together too convenient, explains Susanna; some fine day the Count’s “don don” might mean a three-mile journey for the valet, and then the devil would fetch the dear Count to her side in three paces. Has he not been making love violently to her for a space, sending Don Basilio to give her singing lessons and to urge her to accept his suit? Did Figaro imagine it was because of his own pretty face that the Count had promised her so handsome a dowry? Figaro had pressed such a flattering unction to his soul, but now recalls, with not a little jealous perturbation, that the Count had planned to take him with him to London, where he was to go on a mission of state : “He as ambassador, Figaro as a courier, and Susanna as ambassadress in secret. Is that your game, my lord ? Then I’ll set the pace for your dancing with my guitar” (Cavatina : “Se vuol ballare”).
Almaviva’s obedient valet disappears, and presto ! in his place we see our old friend, the cunning, resourceful barber and town factotum of the earlier days, who shall hatch out a plot to confound his master and shield his love from persecution. First of all he must hasten the wedding. He sets about this at once, but all unconscious of the fact that Dr. Bartolo has never forgiven nor forgotten the part he played in robing him of his ward Rosina. He comes now to let us know that he is seeking revenge against Figaro and at the same time, as he hopes, rid himself of his old housekeeper, Marcellina, to whom he is bound by an obligation that is becoming irksome. The old duenna has been casting amatory glances in Figaro’s direction, and has a hold on him in the shape of a written obligation to marry her in default of repayment of a sum of money borrowed in a time of need. She enlists Bartolo as adviser, and he agrees to lay the matter before the Count. Somewhat early, but naturally enough in the case of the conceited dotard, he gloats over his vengeance, which seems as good as accomplished, and celebrates his triumph in an air (“La vendetta!”). As she is about to leave the room, Marcellina meets Susanna, and the two make a forced effort to conceal their mutual hatred and jealousy in an amusing duettino (“Via resti servita, madama brillante n, full of satirical compliments and curtsies. Marcellina is bowed out of the room with extravagant politeness, and Susanna turns her attention to her mistress’s wardrobe, only to be interrupted by the entrance of Cherubino, the Count’s page. Though a mere stripling, Cherubino is al-ready a budding voluptuary, animated with a wish, something like that of Byron’s hero, that all woman-kind had but a single mouth and he the privilege of kissing it. He adores the Countess; but not her alone. Susanna has a ribbon in her hand with which, she tells him, she binds up her mistress’s tresses at night. Happy Susanna! Happy ribbon! Cherubino seizes it, refuses to give it up, and offers in exchange his latest ballad. “What shall I do with the song?” asks Susanna. “Sing it to the Countess ! Sing it yourself ! Sing it to Barbarina, to Marcellina, to all the ladies in the palace !” He tells Susanna (Air : “Non so più cosa son”) of the torments which he endures. The lad’s mind is, indeed, in a parlous state; he feels his body alternately burning and freezing; the mere sight of a maiden sends the blood to his cheeks, and he needs must sigh whenever he hears her voice ; sleeping and waking, by lakeside, in the shadow of the woods, on the mountain, by stream and fountain, his thoughts are only of love and its sweet pains. It is quite impossible to describe the eloquence with which Mozart’s music expresses the feverish unrest, the turmoil, and the longing which fill the lad’s soul. Otto Jahn has attempted it, and I shall quote his effort : —-
The vibration of sentiment, never amounting to actual passion, the mingled anguish and delight of the longing which can never be satisfied, are expressed with a power of beauty raising them out of the domain of mere sensuality. Very remarkable is the simplicity of the means by which this extraordinary effect is attained. A violin accompaniment passage, not unusual in itself, keeps up the restless movement; the harmonies make no striking progressions; strong emphasis and accents are sparingly used, and yet the soft flow of the music is made suggestive of the consuming glow of passion. The instrumentation is here of a very peculiar effect and quite a novel coloring; the stringed instrument are muted, and clarinets occur for the first time, and very prominently, both alone and in combination with the horns and bassoons.
Cherubino’s philandering with Susanna is interrupted by the Count, who comes with protestations of love, which the page hears from a hiding-place behind a large arm-chair, where Susanna, in her embarrassment, had hastily concealed him on the Count’s entrance. The Count’s philandering, in turn, is interrupted by Basilio, whose voice is heard long enough before his entrance to permit the Count also to seek a hiding-place. He, too, gets behind the chair, while Cherubino, screened by Susanna’s skirts, ensconces himself in the seat, and finds cover under one of the Countess’s gowns which Susanna hurriedly throws over him. Don Basilio comes in search of the Count, but promptly begins his pleas in behalf of his master. Receiving nothing but indignant rejoinders, he twits Susanna with loving the lad, and more than intimates that Cherubino is in love with the Countess. Why else does he devour her with his eyes when serving her at table? And had he not composed a canzonetta for her? Far be it from him, however, to add a word to what “everybody says.” “Everybody says what?” demands the Count, discovering himself. A trio follows (“Cosa sento !”). The Count, though in a rage, preserves a dignified behavior and orders the instant dismissal of the page from the palace. Susanna is overwhelmed with confusion, and plainly betrays her agitation. She swoons, and her companions are about to place in the arm-chair when she realizes a danger and recovers consciousness. Don Basilio cringes before the Count, but is maliciously delighted at the turn which affairs have taken.
The Count is stern. Cherubino had once before incurred his displeasure by poaching in his preserves. He had visited Barbarina, the pretty daughter of his gardener, and found the door bolted. The maid appeared confused, and he, seeking an explanation, drew the cover from the table and found the page hiding under. He illustrates his action by lifting the gown thrown over the chair, and there is the page again ! This, then, is the reason of Susanna’s seeming pruderythe page, her lover ! He accuses Susanna, who asserts her innocence, and truthfully says that Cherubino had come to ask her to procure the Countess’s intercession in his behalf, when his entrance had thrown them both into such confusion that Cherubino had concealed himself. Where? Behind the arm-chair. But the Count himself had hidden there. True, but a moment before the page had slipped around and into the chair. Then he had heard all that the Count had said to Susanna? Cherubino says he had tried his best not to overhear anything. Figaro is sent for and enters with the villagers, who hymn the virtues of their lord. To the Count’s question as to the meaning of the demonstration, Figaro explains that it is an expression of their gratitude for the Count’s surrender of seignorial rights, and that his subjects wish him to celebrate the occasion by bestowing the hand of Susanna on Figaro at once and himself placing the bridal veil upon her brow. The Count sees through Figaro’s trick, but believing it will be frustrated by Marcellina’s appeal, he promises to honor the bride, as requested, in due season. Cherubino has begged for the Count’s forgiveness, and Susanna has urged his youth in extenuation of his fault. Reminded that the lad knows of his pursuit of Susanna, the Count modifies his sentence of dismissal from his service to banishment to Seville as an officer in his regiment. Figaro playfully inducts him into the new existence.
The air “Non più andrai,” in which this is done, is in vigorous march rhythm. Benucci, the original Figaro in Vienna, had a superbly sonorous voice, and Michael Kelly, the English tenor (who sang the two rôles of Don Basilio and Don Curzio), tells us how thrillingly he sang the song at the first rehearsal with the full band. Mozart was on the stage in a crimson pelisse and cocked hat trimmed with gold lace, giving the time to the orchestra. Figaro gave the song with the greatest animation and power of voice. “I was standing close to Mozart,” says Kelly, “who, sotto voce, was repeating : `Bravo, bravo, Benucci!’ and when Benucci came to the fine passage, `Cherubino, alla vittoria, alla gloria militar,’ which he gave out with stentorian lungs, the effect was electricity itself, for the whole of the performers on the stage, and those in the orchestra, as if actuated by one feeling of delight, vociferated : `Bravo, bravo, maestro ! Viva, viva, grande Mozart!’ Those in the orchestra I thought would never have ceased applauding by beating the bows of their violins against the music desks. The little man acknowledged by repeated obeisances his thanks for the distinguished mark of enthusiastic applause bestowed upon him.”
This ends the first act. At the opening of the second the Countess asks our sympathy because of the unhappiness caused by her errant husband. (Cavatina : “Porgi amor.”) She prays the god of love to restore her to his affections. Susanna entering, the Countess asks her to continue her tale of the Count’s pursuit of her. There is nothing to add, says the maid ; the Count wooed as noble-men woo women of her class with money. Figaro appears to tell that the. Count is aiding Marcellina in her scheme and of the trick which he has devised to circumvent him. He had sent Basilio to his lordship with a letter warning him that the Countess had made an appointment to meet a lover at the ball to be given in the evening. This would fan the fires of his jealousy and so enrage him that he would forget his designs against Susanna until she was safely married, when he would discover that he had been outwitted. In the meantime, while he is reflecting on the fact that two could play at the game, Susanna is to apprise the Count that she will meet him in the garden in the evening. Cherubino, whose departure to Seville had been delayed for the purpose; is to meet the Count disguised as Susanna, and the Countess, appearing on the scene, is to unmask him. The Count is supposed to have gone a-hunting, and the plotters have two hours for preparation. Figaro leaves them to find Cherubino, that he may be put into petticoats. When the page comes, the Countess first insists on hearing the song which he had given to Susanna, and Cherubino, stammering and blushing at first, sings it to Susanna’s guitar. (Canzone : “Voi che sapete.”) Again I call upon Otto Jahn for a description of the music. “Cherubino is not here directly expressing his feelings ; he is depicting them in a romance, and he is in the presence of the Countess, toward whom he glances with all the bashfulness of boyish passion. The song is in ballad form, to suit the situation, the voice executing the clear, lovely melody, while the stringed instruments carry on a simple accompaniment pizzicato, to imitate the guitar : this delicate outline is, however, shaded and animated in a wonderful degree by solo wind instruments. Without being absolutely necessary for the progress of the melodies and the completeness of the harmonies, they supply the delicate touches of detail, reading between the lines of the romance, as it were, what is passing in the heart of the singer. We know not whether to admire most the gracefulness of the melodies, the delicacy of the disposition of the parts, the charm of the tone coloring, or the tenderness of the expression the whole is of entrancing beauty.”
Susanna finds that she and Cherubino are of the same height, and begins to array him in garments belonging to her, first locking the door against possible intruders. The Countess views the adventure with some misgivings at first, but, after all, Cherubino is a mere boy, and she rejoices him with approval of his songs, and smiles upon him till he is deliriously happy. Basilio has given him his commission in the Count’s regiment, and the Countess discovers that it lacks a seal to secure which would cause a longer and desired delay. While Susanna is playing the rôle of dressing-maid to Cherubino, and instructing him in a ladylike bearing, the Count raps for admission to the room. Figaro’s decoy letter caused him uneasiness, and he had abandoned the hunt. Cherubino hurries into the chamber, and the Countess turns the key upon him before admitting his lordship, who enters in an ill-humor which is soon turned into jealous rage. Cherubino has awkwardly overturned a chair in the chamber, and though the Countess explains that Susanna is within, she refuses to open the door, on the plea that her maid is making her toilet. The Count goes for tools to break open the door, taking the Countess with him. Susanna, who has heard all from an alcove, hastens to Cherubino’s rescue, who escapes by leaping from the window of the Countess’s apartment into the garden below. Susanna takes his place in the chamber. Then begins the most marvellously ingenious and beautiful finale in the whole literature of opera. Fast upon each other follow no fewer than eight independent pieces of music, each a perfect delineation of the quickly changing moods and situations of the. comedy, yet each built up on the lines of musical symmetry, and developing a musical theme which, though it passes from mouth to mouth, appears each time to belong peculiarly to the person uttering it. The Countess throws herself upon the mercy of the Count, confesses that Cherubino, suspiciously garbed, is in the chamber, but pleads for his life and protests her innocence of wrong. She gives the key to her enraged husband, who draws his sword, unlocks the door, and commands the page to stand forth. Susanna confronts the pair with grave unconsciousness upon her features. The Countess is no less amazed than her lord.
The Count goes into the chamber to search for the page, giving Susanna a chance to explain, and the nimble-witted women are ready for him when he comes back confused, confounded, and ready to ask forgiveness of his wife, who becomes tearful and accusing, telling him at length that the story of the page’s presence was all an invention to test him. But the letter giving word of the assignation ? Written by Figaro. He then shall be punished. Forgiveness is deserved only by those willing to forgive. All is well, and the Countess gives her hand to be kissed by her lord. Enters Figaro with joyous music to announce that all’s ready for the wedding; trumpets sounding, pipes tootling, peasants singing and dancing. The Count throws a damper upon his exuberant spirits. How about that letter? In spite of the efforts of the Countess and Susanna to make him confess its authorship, Figaro stoutly insists that he knows nothing of it. The Count summons Marcellina, but before she arrives, the drunken gardener Antonio appears to tell the Count that some one had leaped out of the salon window and damaged his plants and pots. Confusion overwhelms the women. But Figaro’s wits are at work. He laughs loudly and accuses Antonio of being too tipsy to know what had happened. The gardener sticks to his story and is about to describe the man who came like a bolt from the window, when Figaro says it was he made the leap. He was waiting in the salon to see Susanna, he explains, when he heard the Count’s footsteps, and, fearing to meet him because of the decoy letter, he had jumped from the window and got a sprained ankle, which he offers in evidence. The orchestra changes key and tempo, and begins a new inquisition with pitiless reiteration.
Antonio produces Cherubino’s commission, “These, then, are your papers?” The Count takes the commission, opens it, and the Countess recognizes it. With whispers and signs the women let Figaro know what it is, and he is ready with the explanation that the page had left the paper with him. Why? It lacked the women come again to his rescue it lacked the seal. The Count tears up the paper in his rage at being foiled again. But his allies are at hand, in the persons of Marcellina, Bartolo, and Basilio, who appear with the accusing contract, signed by Figaro. The Count takes the case under advisement, and the act ends with Figaro’s enemies sure of triumph and his friends dismayed.
The third act plays in a large hall of the palace decorated for the wedding. In a duet (“Crudel! perche finora”) the Count renews his addresses to Susanna. She, to help along the plot to unmask him, consents to meet him in the garden. A wonderful grace rests upon the music of the duet, which Mozart’s genius makes more illuminative than the words. Is it Susanna’s native candor, or goodness, or mischievousness, or her embarrassment which prompts her to answer “yes” when “no” was expected and “no” when the Count had already received an affirmative? We can think as we please ; the musical effect is delicious. Figaro’s coming interrupts further conversation, and as Susanna leaves the room with her, she drops a remark to Figaro, which the Count overhears : “Hush ! We have won our case without a lawyer.” What does it mean? Treachery, of course. Possibly Marcellina’s silence has been purchased. But whence the money ? The Count’s amour propre is deeply wounded at the thought that his menials should outwit him and he fail of his conquest. He swears that he will be avenged upon both. Apparently he has not long to wait, for Marcellina, Don Curzio, and Bartolo enter, followed by Figaro. Don Curzio announces the decision of the court in the duenna’s suit against Figaro. He must pay or marry, according to the bond. But Figaro refuses to abide by the decision. He is a gentleman by birth, as proved by the jewels and costly clothing found upon him when he was recovered from some robbers who stole him when a babe, and he must have the consent of his parents. He has diligently sought them and will prove his identity by a mark upon his arm. “A spatula on the right elbow?” anxiously inquires Marcellina. “Yes.” And now Bartolo and the duenna, who a moment ago would fain have made him an OEdipus, recognize in Figaro their own son, born out of wed-lock. He rushes to their arms and is found em-bracing his mother most tenderly by Susanna, who comes with a purse to repay the loan. She flies into a passion and boxes Figaro’s ears before the situation is explained, and she is made as happy by the unexpected dénouement as the Count and Don Curzio are miserable. Bartolo resolves that there shall be a double wedding ; he will do tardy justice to Marcellina. Now we see the Countess again in her lamentable mood, mourning the loss of her husband’s love. (Aria : “Dove sono.”) Susanna comes to tell of her appointment with the Count. The place, “in the garden,” seems to. be lacking in clearness, and the Countess proposes that it be made more definite and certain (as the lawyers say), by means of a letter which shall take the form of a “Song to the Zephyr.” This is the occasion of the exquisite duet which was surely in the mind of the composer’s father when, writing to his daughter from Vienna after the third performance of the opera, he said : “One little duet had to be sung three times.” Was there ever such exquisite dictation and transcription? Can any one say, after hearing this “Canzonetta sull’ aria,” that it is unnatural to melodize conversation? With what gracious tact the , orchestra gives time to Susanna to set down the words of her mistress ! How perfect is the musical reproduction of inquiry and repetition when a phrase escapes the memory of the writer !
The letter is written, read over phrase by phrase, and sealed with a pin which the Count is to return as proof that he has received the note.
The wedding festivities begin with a presentation of flowers to the Countess by the village maidens, among whom in disguise is the rogue Cherubino so fair in hat and gown that the Countess singles him out of the throng to present his nosegay in person. Antonio, who had suspected that he was still about the palace, exposes him to the Count, who threatens the most rigorous punishment, but is obliged to grant Barberina’s petition that he give his consent to her marriage to the page. Had he not often told her to ask him what she pleased, when kissing her in secret? Under the circumstances he can only grant the little maid’s wish. During the dance which follows (it is a Spanish fandango which seems to have been popular in Vienna at the time, for Gluck had already made use of the same melody in his ballet “Don Juan”), Susanna kneels before the Count to have him place the wreath (or veil) upon her head, and slyly slips the “Canzonetta sull’ aria” into his hands. He pricks his finger with the pin, drops it, but, on reading the postscript, picks it up, so that he may return it to the writer as a sign of understanding. In the evening Barberina, who has been commissioned to carry the pin to her cousin Susanna, loses it again, and her lamentation “L’ho perdita,” with its childish sobs while hunting it, is one of the little gems of the opera. From her Figaro learns that the letter which he had seen the Count read during the dance was from Susanna, and becomes furiously jealous. In an air (which has already been described), he rails against man’s credulity and woman’s faithlessness. The time is come to unmask the Count. The Countess and Susanna have exchanged dresses, and now come into the garden. Left alone, Susanna gives voice to her longing and love (for Figaro, though the situation makes it seem to be for the Count) in the air which has won great favor in the concert-room: “Deh vieni non tardar.” Here some of Otto Jahn’s words are again appropriate :
Mozart was right to let the feelings of the loving maiden shine forth in all their depth and purity, for Susanna has none but her Figaro in her mind, and the sentiments she expresses are her true ones. Figaro, in his hiding place, listening and suspecting her of awaiting the Count’s arrival, throws a cross-light on the situation, which, however, only receives its full dramatic signification by reason of the truth of Susanna’s expression of feeling. Susanna, without her sensual charm, is inconceivable, and a tinge of sensuality is an essential element of her nature; but Mozart has transfigured it into a noble purity which may fitly be compared with the grandest achievements of Greek sculpture.
Cherubino, watched from different places of concealment by the Count, Figaro, and Susanna, appears, and, seeing the Countess, whom he takes for Susanna, confounds not her alone, but also the Count and Figaro, by his ardent addresses to her. He attempts to kiss her, but the Count steps forward and interposes his cheek. The Count attempts to box Cherubino’s ears, but Figaro, slipping forward at the moment, receives the blow instead. Con-fusion is at its height. The Count makes love to his wife, thinking she is Susanna, promises her a dowry, and places a ring on her finger. Seeing torches approaching, they withdraw into deeper darkness. Susanna shows herself, and Figaro, who takes her for the Countess, acquaints her of the Count’s doings which he has just witnessed. Susanna betrays herself, and Figaro resolves to punish her for her masquerading. He makes love to her with extravagant pathos until interrupted by a slap in the face. Susanna’s patience had become exhausted, and her temper got the better of her judgment. Figaro laughs at her ill-humor and confesses his trick, but renews his sham love-making when he sees the Count returning. The latter calls for lights, and seizes Figaro and his retainers. In the presence of all he is put to shame by the disclosures of the personality of the Countess and Susanna. He falls on his knees, asks forgiveness, receives it, and all ends happily.