THE overture shows in the most striking way what instrumental music can be made to do. The second title, La folle journêe, given by Beaumarchais to this work, seems to have been in Mozart’s mind here. After settling upon his principal themes, he changed his mind in one respect. There was a kind of intermediate or episodic measure, a kind of tender Siciliano, that he put aside, feeling that it would be a mistake to mingle any foreign element with the overflowing joyousness of this introduction. And what an outburst of unrestrained gaiety he has produced from the first moment when the violins ask each other what is about to happen to the last jubilant fanfare ! One beautiful, merry melody comes on after another, driving its predecessor before it. Occasionally there is the faintest touch of apparent melancholy which only serves to bring out more strongly the dominating spirit of mad gaiety. The course of the comedy of intrigue and the ultimate victory of the conjugal cause are foretold in the contrapuntal skirmishes of the violins and basses. Then comes the peroration. The violins hurry in throngs of quavers to the orchestral rendez-vous, gathering together the wood, brass and percussion instruments on the way. Every moment the troop grows and rises, sounding louder and louder till it becomes a thunder of jubilation ; then come scales on every voice of the orchestra disputing the production of the loudest explosion. What brio ! what fire ! what splendour!
AcT I. – The scene is laid in the Castello d’Aguas-Frescas, near Seville, and opens on a half-furnished room with an armchair in the centre. Figaro (baritone) is busy measuring the floor; Susanna (soprano) is trying on a hat before the mirror. In the opening duet, Cinque, dieci, venti, Figaro is still occupied, while Susanna begs him to look at her becoming hat. They end by referring to their marriage soon to take place and vowing eternal fidelity. Figaro tells Susanna that the Count Almaviva (bass) his master, has given them this room for their apartment. Susanna refuses it. Figaro explains the advantage of being near the Count and Countess in case either should ring (” Din din, don don “) for them (duet : Se a caso Madama la notte ti chiama). Susanna tells Figaro that she fears she has captivated the fancy of the fickle Count, who wants them both with him on his embassy to London. After she leaves, Figaro defies his master in a most beautiful cavatina, Se vuol ballare, Signor Contino.
Enter Bartolo (bass) and his old housekeeper, Marcellina (soprano). The latter has a contract in her hand. Susanna comes to listen in the background. She learns that Figaro once borrowed money from Marcellina, promising to pay by a certain date under forfeit of marrying the creditor. The bond matures to-day, and Marcellina’s idea is to get Susanna to repulse the Count’s advances so that in revenge he shall force Figaro to marry Marcellina. Dr. Bartolo has an old grudge against Figaro and promises aid. He gloats on the prospect of revenge upon his rival Figaro in an aria, La Vendetta, a masterpiece of revenge and chicanery. The accompaniment of the entire orchestra, including drums and trumpets, sounds like the signal to mortal combat. Afterwards the instruments lead us through dark conceptions of intrigue, dominated by the fixed idea of vengeance expressed by a sustained note on the violins and horn. At Bartolo’s exit, Susanna comes forward with the Countess’s gown, head-dress and ribbon. They mockingly offer to give precedence to each other one on account of beauty, the other for age. In this duet, in which impertinences pass into mutual bitterness, the orchestra does the actual abuse ; the music puts both women on the same level. Susanna gains the victory only through her youthful grace, and the whole situation is revealed by the orchestra merely as an outbreak of that jealous sensitiveness common to the sex. As they both belong to a somewhat low rank, the impression produced by their lack of self-restraint is lively and diverting.
Susanna being left in possession of the field, Cherubino puts his head in at the door, and, seeing her alone, enters. He is in trouble. The Count caught him alone that morning with Barbarina, the gardener’s daughter, and is going to dismiss him. Won’t Susanna get the dear Countess to intercede for him ? Susanna teases him about the latter, one of whose ribbons she has with her, and which Cherubino sentimentally appropriates, offering a song of his own composition in exchange. In this, Non so più Cosa son, he describes his amorous pangs in lovely music accompanied by muted violins. Into the orchestral web the wind instruments are tenderly woven, but with masterly restraint. The Count comes in and the page hurriedly hides behind the chair, in which the Count then seats himself. He asks the cause of Susanna’s evident confusion, tells her that he is going to take Figaro with him on his embassy to London, and begs her to meet him at dusk in the orange bower. At this moment, Basilio, the Countess’s singing-master, is heard out-side asking for the Count, who goes to hide behind the arm-chair. Cherubino slips around and crouches in it, while Susanna hastily throws the Countess’s robe over him as Basilio (tenor) enters. The hiding Almaviva hears the malicious Basilio accuse the page of pleasing the chamber-maid, and even daring to lift his eyes to the Countess. He comes out and rages ; and the trio, Cosa sento? tosto andate, commences. Basilio, delighted with the mischief he has made, feigns fear, but as the music will not lie for him, the traitor sings his excuses gaily enough. Susanna, who has every reason to fear, utters her agony in broken and failing notes that leave her half fainting on the cadence. The jealous Count is softened. His faithful servant pretends to want to calm an anger that amuses him, and pours oil upon the flames by saying to his patron, Ah del paggio, etc. ” What I said of the page was only what I suspected,” perfidious words sung in the most meaning tone, in unison with the orchestra. The Count pronounces the page’s banishment, and, to justify the harsh sentence, he relates in recitative how he found him with the gardener’s daughter, hidden under a table. Raising the dress over the chair, to explain how he raised the tablecloth, he uncovers Cherubino. ” Amazement ! ” exclaims the Count ; ” Better and better ! ” chuckles Basilio ; ” Ah ! cruel stars ! ” cries Susanna. Then comes an ensemble in which the three lyric characters are clearly and energetically outlined. The Count is furious, Susanna again fainting, while Basilio, that Mephistopheles of the antechamber, is in his glory. He sharply intones a theme, so caustic, and at the same time expressive of such cordial satisfaction, that the scoundrel almost seems a good fellow in his malice. ” All beauties act thus ! ” After this ” aside,” he turns to the Count and repeats, a fifth higher, as though he were afraid of not being heard, ” What I said of the page was only what I suspected!” a characteristic piece of Mozart’s humour. The orchestration of the whole situation is masterly. Susanna and Cherubino vainly try to explain satisfactorily the latter’s presence.
At this juncture, Figaro enters with bridal chorus, Giovanni liete, by Barbarina and village girls. He brings a white veil, and thanks the astonished Count for abolishing seignorial rights over his vassals, and begs him to confirm his promise by crowning Susanna with a veil as an emblem of virginal purity. The Count is caught by his craft, but defers the ceremony till later in the day, and the chorus departs. Susanna and Figaro plead for the scamp, Cherubino, and the Count appoints him an ensign in his own regiment ; only he must set out at once. On the exit of the Count with Basilio, Figaro sings, Non più andrai, as an exhortation to the disconsolate page. In this aria is united everything that charms the connoisseur and everything that would be necessary to move the most obtuse musical sense; an agreeable and facile chant, an imitative declamation that paints the text to the life, an instrumentation full of sonority, euphony, movement, and images ; a rhythm to set a hundred thousand men marching in time, and a sufficient expression to electrify the dullest yokel. Mozart’s humour is exuberant here. We hear the voice of the drill-master, Gallo dritto ! Musa franco ! ” The recruit is before us, upright and motionless. The chords of the orchestra, falling with quite a soldier spirit on the pauses between the officer’s words, reveal the various evolutions of the automaton. He marches to right and left ; he advances, retires, strikes the ground with his gun, and resumes the attitude of an Egyptian statue. This music is literally visible. At the words, “Ed invece del fandango” (” instead of the fandango”), the declamation becomes less imperative; a memory of the paternal hearth makes minor chords vibrate in the heart of the recruit, but the tear is quickly wiped away ; the modulation turns brusquely to the tonic and the march immediately begins. While the vocal part continues to reproduce in syllabic quavers the details of service, the complete phalanx of wind instruments brings before us noble and poetic visions of war and combat. The bellicose triolets of the trumpet irresistibly call the recruit, “Alla vittoria, alla gloria militar.” Farewell, flowers and ribbons ! farewell, light dances ! farewell, youthful amours ! The recruit has heard the call to glory and has forgotten them all. Such is the impression. Mozart has carried us from prose into poetry, from irony unto enthusiasm.
AcT II. A fine chamber with an alcove on the right and a door on the left; a cabinet, a window and a second door leading into an inner room. The Countess (soprano) sings her cavatina, Porgi amor, praying that her husband’s love may be restored to her, an aria that exhales a delicious yet melancholy tenderness. It is very short, containing only forty bars, including the ritornello. When Susanna enters, the Countess questions her about the Count’s advances. Figaro comes in gaily singing, and suggests a plan to confound the Count, namely, that he shall send a letter from Susanna promising to meet the Count in the garden during the evening’s festivities and that Cherubino in disguise shall take her place. He goes for the page, singing to pizzicato accompaniment his Si vuol ballare of Act I. On Cherubino’s arrival, Susanna makes him sing, to her, own accompaniment on the guitar, his song, roi che sapete, to the Countess, who praises it. Susanna measures herself back to back with him to see if he can wear her clothes, and removes his mantle. The Countess is nervous, so Susanna fastens the door. The Countess sends for one of her own head-dresses, and, in Susanna’s absence, sees Cherubino’s commission and notices they have forgotten to seal it. Susanna sits down by her mistress, Cherubino kneels in front of her, and she adjusts the head-dress (aria : Venite, inginocchiatevi ). When putting in pins and adjusting a head-dress, these grave occupations render singing a difficult matter. Consequently, there is little vocal melody here; the orchestra sings for Susanna, and the dialogue between the violins and the flutes and their consorts is full of charming details, graceful motives, witty speeches and provoking coquetry. The transformation makes Cherubino altogether charming and Susanna half falls in love with him. She prophecies that he will play havoc with ladies’ hearts and the oboe supports her words. When she has finished, she goes off with his mantle and the Countess recognizes her ribbon on his exposed arm. She reproves his presumption. The Count knocks. The Countess is disturbed at the compromising situation. Cherubino hides in the cabinet and she admits her husband. He has heard voices and her confused explanations increase his suspicions. He gives her the note received from Figaro. Cherubino upsets a chair in the cabinet. She explains it must be Susanna; he doesn’t believe her. Susanna enters and keeps watchfully in the background. He calls to Susanna to come out of the cabinet, ” Susanna, or via sortite.” The Countess calls to her to stay inside; and won’t open the door for him. He calls for servants to break it open, but, on her protest at the indignity, he makes her accompany him to fetch a crowbar to do it himself, locking the door as they go out. Susanna runs to release Cherubino (duet : Aprite, presto aprite), but they are locked in, and finally he jumps out of the window, leaving a saucy kiss with Susanna for the Countess. In this duet, the orchestra is charged with the development of the main melodic phrase. Cherubino having escaped, Susanna takes his place in the cabinet. The Count and his wife return. His manner is very violent, and she fears he will kill Cherubino. In her distress, she confesses that the latter is in the cabinet, and explains how he came to be there. The Count is furious and his wife is in tears and finally gives him the key. At the threshold he is confronted by Susanna, to the amazement of both Count and Countess. Here begins the splendid finale in which the orchestra says even more than the characters in elucidating the situation. Susanna ironically asks if the Count wants to kill a harmless lady’s maid. He is staggered, but enters to satisfy himself, while she explains matters to the Countess and encourages her to put a bold face on the matter. The baffled Almaviva has to endure bitter reproaches and sarcasm from the two women on his return, and is forced to apologize and make his peace, whereupon he is conditionally forgiven. Figaro enters to announce the marriage ceremony, and is about to depart when the Count stops him and shows him the letter, accusing him of having written it as the Countess had confessed. However, he unblushingly denies it ; and the Count wishes Marcellina would not tarry, for something must be done to punish Figaro. Just then, Antonio, the gardener (bass) enters, intoxicated, with a broken pot of flowers. He complains that they are always throwing rubbish out of the windows on his beds and just now they threw a man down. There is consternation at this among the conspirators. Figaro tries to silence the drunken fellow, but the Count is interested and inquires further. It must have been the page ! Finally Figaro says he himself was the culprit. He was in there waiting for Susanna to be alone and heard somebody coming, and, not wishing to be caught, jumped out of the window. Antonio thinks he has grown, he was a smaller man when he jumped on his flower-pots. Figaro always makes himself small when he jumps, moreover he hurt his foot; and the orchestra limps with him. Very well, but these papers fell from his pocket ! The Count takes possession of them and wants Figaro to identify them. He takes papers out of his pocket to see what are missing ; he had so many. The babbling gardener departs. The Countess looks over her husband’s shoulder and tells Susanna what the papers are. Susanna prompts Figaro, who thus extricates himself from the difficulty, though the Count is still suspicious. Then Marcellina, Basilio and Bartolo enter to make the claim against Figaro. The Count promises to take the case under consideration, and the curtain falls on the dismay of the Countess, Susanna and Figaro.
AcT III. A grand saloon adorned for the nuptial ceremony. The Count is walking up and down, troubled with the idea that Susanna may have told his wife of his intriguing. If she has, Figaro shall marry Marcellina ! Susanna has come for her mistress’s salts for the vapours, and an explanation follows. He tells her she is likely to lose her husband before she is married. But Susanna will give Marcellina in payment of the bond the dowry the Count promised her. Yes, but the dowry will not be forthcoming except on conditions. Susanna has to temporize. Of all the seven duets in this opera in which Susanna takes part, this, Crudel ! perch? finora, is generally the favourite. It is the only one that has any passion in it, and then only one side. Passion breaks forth in the Count’s first phrases that begin the piece in A-minor. Susanna’s temporizing reply appears firmly established in the correlative major key ; but notice the tricky harmony, so equivocal and full of artifice and duplicity, that accompanies the first two bars of this song, so natural in itself ! The Count is moved ; Susanna, not at all; he is deceived, she deceives; and this antithesis is felt from the beginning to the end of the duet. ” Ver-rai ? non mancherai ? ” (You will not fail?) is a breathless phrase with the accent falling upon an accidental B-flat that it seems Venus herself must have placed before, the A where it is resolved. At last there is no more doubt ; she will meet him; she says so and repeats it. The major of the tonic succeeds the minor and the entry of the three sharps pours a torrent of flames into the melody of the Count, ” Mi sento dal contents,” while Susanna is colder and fuller of raillery than ever. ” Sensatemi se mento” (For-give me if I lie), she says in an aside. The music, that never lends itself as an accomplice to the falsehoods in the text, told this from the very beginning. In ecstasy at the anticipated tryst in the orange bower, the Count retires, leaving her exultant at the success of her diplomacy, as Figaro enters. Before the Count is quite out of ear-shot, Susanna tells Figaro she has succeeded in hood-winking their noble master. They go out together, and then the Count returns and vows vengeance. He will thwart their desires. Marcellina is a ready weapon, and they had better beware.
In this aria, Vedrà mentr’ io sospiro, are revealed the weaknesses of an amorous, vindictive, and jealous heart. In turn we hear an outbreak of indignation and concentrated rage that mutters on the muted strings ; grief envenomed by the sufferings of pride ; tenderness restrained from breaking into tears; stifled impotent anger; and love (not platonic) with its sharp burns and most corrosive poisons. But Almaviva still has hope; his voice soars on the peroration, calling with all the energy of Southern passion upon the hour that shall satisfy the double need of love and vengeance.
The obsequious Alcalde, Don Curzio (tenor) arrives with Marcellina, Bartolo and the dejected Figaro. He says that the Count’s decree is that Figaro must fulfil the contract, marry or pay up. The Count approves and Bartolo acclaims the judgment. Figaro flatly refuses. He can’t wed without the consent of his parents ? Who are they ? He does n’t know ; he has been seeking them for fifteen years, and he demands more time. He has a mark on his right arm by which his parents evidently intended to recognize the foundling some day. This mark of identification leads to his recognition by Marcellina and Dr. Bartolo as their son, Rafaello. This upsets the Count’s schemes and leads to a noble sextet in which the orchestra depicts the varied emotions of the several characters. Nothing could be more masterly than the rendering of this scene, especially the whispered, ” His mother ? His father ? ” that leaps like wildfire from lip to lip, and the final interweaving of all the voices at the close. While the late enemies are exchanging tender embraces, Susanna comes in with a purse to pay the fine, and is outraged to see Figaro in the arms of her rival; she boxes his ears. The tender melody with which Marcellina greeted her son is transferred to the orchestra when she confesses herself his mother before Susanna. The inward peace of thankful hearts that gushes forth in full delight seems to shine in placid and radiant melody. A marvellous effect is produced by the whole passage being delivered sotto voce, a means Mozart al-ways employs with deep psychological truth. At first he gave Susanna’s melody to the bassoon and flute, but after-ward suppressed them in order to give the voice full scope. But there are others present whose feelings are not in unison. The Count controls himself so as not to reveal his rage and pain. The simple, stuttering Don Curzio obsequiously echoes his lord’s words. The result is an astonishing musical effect when the high tenor mingles with the Count’s bass, producing an impression of cutting irony, very characteristic of Mozart’s grasp of dramatic possibilities. The Count and the Alcalde disappear discomfited. The reconciliation of the others is complete. Marcellina gives the bond to Figaro as a marriage portion, and they go to find the Countess and Susanna’s uncle, the gardener, to tell them the good news.
Cherubino and Barbarina next appear. The village girls are all at the gardener’s cottage. Barbarina wants him to come and let her disguise him as one of them, he will be the most beautiful of them all ! Cherubino dreads the Count’s discovering him, but lets himself be persuaded by the pretty peasant and accompanies her.
The Countess then enters. She has determined to change dresses with Susanna and keep the assignation, but she bemoans the unworthy tricks to which she is driven. Her Dove sono is an aria in the grand style and of the noblest expression. The remembered poetry of the honeymoon, after long years passed in drinking out of the absinthe-glass of marriage, reanimates Rosina’s heart for a moment. She sings her melodies in a mode as splendid as the sun of that day when Lindoro plighted his faith, on a melody as pure and sweet as love’s first thought in a virgin’s heart. Ah ! if the spring of life could only return. ” Ah ! se almen,” etc. Rosina abandons herself to the flattering illusions of her sex ; the Andante changes to Allegro, and reviving hope brings to the surface one of those adorable themes that nobody but a husband can resist. Graceful figures, executed in thirds and sixths by the oboe and bassoon, respond to the wife’s wishes, or utter encouraging words to her; and, if any anxious doubt seems to cross the modulation that is dominated by the A-sharp descending to the G by a chromatic step, the painful thought is soon effaced in the joy of the triumph announced by the peroration. She will yet win back his ungrateful heart ! She goes to seek Susanna. The Count, and the gardener carrying Cherubino’s military hat, then pass through. The former can scarcely believe what the latter says, but will go to the cottage to satisfy himself that the page is not in -Seville, but has disguised himself as a peasant and left his own clothes in Barbarina’s room.
The Countess and Susanna enter, the latter is telling the result of her interview with her master, and the Countess dictates a letter appointing a meeting with the maid in the garden. Figaro knows nothing of this, though originally it was his scheme. This famous Sull’ aria, known as the Letter Duet, is full of beauties, both in the vocal and instrumental parts. At the close of the recitative, as heading of what is to come, and as Susanna begins to write, the oboe and bassoon start off with the ritornello and undertake to inform us on their own account what it is that Susanna is writing, but they do not utter a sound while the Countess is dictating ; another brilliant flash of Mozart’s inexhaustible genius. “The evening zephyrin the pine-grove ;the rest he will comprehend ! ” Now fasten it with a pin, which he must return as a token as having received the note, and agreeing. Susanna hides it in her bosom as a troop of girls enter with an offering of flowers for the Countess. Barbarina and the disguised page sing the little verse of offering and good wishes, Ricevete, O padroncina. The Countess graciously thanks them and notices the page, who, Barbarina explains, is her cousin, and composed the song. The Countess and Susanna both notice the resemblance to Cherubino, and the Countess kisses the charming girl on the brow, commenting on her blushes. The Count and Antonio come in, and the latter advances and pulls off Cherubino’s wig and exposes him, amid general consternation. The Count vows to punish his disobedience, and the Countess has to explain the morning’s disguise. Barbarina asks the Count to give Cherubino to her for her husband. The latter is indifferent to punishment, as he bears upon his brow what is worth twenty years’ imprisonment. That must be his soldier’s cap, as the Countess hastily explains. Figaro enters to call the girls to the dance. The Count had thought his foot was too much hurt to dance ! It was lucky the flower-pots were only clay ! ” Yes, it was ; and it ‘s better now.” But what about Cherubino’s galloping to Seville ? ” At a gallop, or amble ; good luck to him. Come along, girls ! ” A lively march is heard in the distance, and they depart, Figaro giving his arm to Susanna. The Countess asks the Count to receive the wedding-party graciously. They go to take their seats on the throne, he brooding on vengeance.
A band of country girls enter with a little virginal hat with white feathers, and veil, gloves, and nosegays for Susanna and Marcellina. Then comes Bartolo with Figaro, and next Antonio brings forward Susanna, who kneels before the Count. While he puts the hat on her head and presents her with the veil, gloves, and flowers, the bridal chorus is sung. Meantime she manages to give him the letter unobserved ; he pricks his fingers and growls at ” those cursed pins.” However, on reading the superscription, he searches for the pin that has fallen to the ground. Figaro notices him reading the letter and surmises it is a love letter slipped to him by one of the girls. The Count finds the pin, and meanwhile a Fandango is being danced. This was probably borrowed from Spain, but the treatment is all Mozart. The song, given to the violin, occasionally doubled by the bassoon and flute, is accompanied by a kind of countersubject, taken from the air itself, that always proceeds in detached notes of equal value, but on a multiple design, at the same time reproducing parallel, lateral and contrary move-ment. The result is a progression of chords of the sixth that only the great may venture. In addition we have an entirely simple and almost primitive modulation. From A-minor we go to the minor key of the fifth, then to C-major, and end as we began on the tonic. It is a scientific as well as a popular triumph.] The Count then graciously dismisses them all, promising splendid festivities for the evening, and they retire to a repetition of the chorus.
AcT. IV. A garden with two pavilions to right and left. Barbarina enters with a paper lantern in one hand, and an orange, pear and cake in the other. She has lost the pin and sings her simple little aria, L’ho perduta me meschina, as she hunts for it. This little woman, in her inclination for Cherubino, as well as in the frankness with which she blurts out everything and thus becomes a veritable enfant terrible for the Count, is childlike in the extreme and not merely naïve. As she exhibits her woe at losing the pin, with all the fright, anxiety, and vehemence of a child, her sobbing, sighing, crying, and howling make a comic impression upon us. If Mozart has employed an accumulation of musical phrases out of proportion to the trifling occasion, phrases which he will use later to express more serious emotions, we must not impugn the truthfulness of his characterizations. The young thing is giving herself up to misery out of all proportion to the trifling cause; but Mozart paints her intense distress. Figaro enters with Marcellina, and learns that the Count commissioned Barbarina to give the pin to Susanna, and helps her find it. She goes off gaily to find Susanna, and then Cherubino. Figaro now turns to his mother for comfort. He remembers the affair of the letter during the ceremony, and now suspects Susanna for the first time. She tries to calm him, but he goes out, saying he will vindicate the rights of husbands. Marcellina means to stand by Susanna and warn her, as she believes in her innocence. She sings a fine aria full of colorature, Il capro e la caprella, the moral of which is that animals are kind to each other, but poor woman has always to put up with abuse and ill-usage from brutal man. Having thus relieved her mind, she departs. Barbarina appears with a little basket of provisions. She had to pay for them with a kiss, which she grudged, but after all what will one matter when we ‘re dead ! With which philosophic reflection she enters the pavilion on the left to await Cherubino. Figaro enters, followed by Basilio and Bartolo.
Before stepping aside, Basilio explains his system of philosophy in the characteristic aria, In quegl’ anni in cui val poco, in which he shows how he has progressed since his young days when he thought to combat tyrants. The Devil in a dream taught him better by covering him from head to foot in an ass’s skin. In this he was able to brave all tempests, for the lightning avoided the ridicule of striking an ass ; moreover, a ferocious bear, whose claws Basilio could already feel, was deceived by his mask and turned aside in disdain from such a vile prey. In the orchestra, of course we hear the explosion of the tempest and the growls of the beast. The moral is ” Col cujo d’asino fuggir si puo.” Mozart has humorously accompanied this apothegm of a liar and scoundrel with a decidedly military and triumphal melody, which the violins, flutes and horns, double on various octaves, so that none of the sarcasm shall be lost. He seldom writes an aria in three movements, but here we find Andante, Tempo di menuetto and Allegro assai, because it is at once narrative, descriptive and didactic.
Figaro comes back. Jealously is already making him play the fool part of a husband. ” Oh, Susanna ! Faith-less even during the ceremony ! As he read the letter he laughed like a beast at my expense, and I laughed with him ! ” He rails at the whole perfidious sex and breathes his rage in the fine aria, Aprite un po qu gl’ occhj, telling deluded husbands to open their eyes.
Susanna and the Countess, each disguised as the other, now enter with Marcellina, who has told the suspicions of Figaro, who thinks he is unobserved as he hovers watch-fully in the background. To punish him, Susanna sings an aria, Deh vieni, non tardar, expressing love’s impatience at the Count’s delay. The amorous strains of the oboe and bassoon, so prominent here, drive the poor dupe almost to despair, as we learn from his recitative. Mean-while, Marcellina and the Countess have retired to the pavilion on the left and right respectively, to keep watch. Now arrives Cherubino, gaily singing on his way to meet Barbarina. Hearing some one coming, the Countess advances and Cherubino mistakes her for Susanna, and now begins the finale, Pian, pianin le andrô più presso. Susanna stands back, enjoying the situation, which is increasing poor Figaro’s distress. The Count comes in stealthily and sees the page struggling with the supposed Susanna for a kiss. The Count and Figaro step forward, and the former receives the kiss intended for Susanna ; he tries to strike the page, but the latter dodges and Figaro gets the blow. Cherubino escapes into the pavilion on the left, and Figaro retires, jeered at for his spying, to repair damages. The Count pays court to his disguised wife, celebrates her charms, and puts a diamond ring upon her finger. She promises to keep it forever. Susanna and Figaro, in the background apart, respectively comment on deluded husbands and wives. Figaro again advances and disturbs them, the Count retiring and his wife going into the pavilion on the right. Figaro bitterly calls himself a second Vulcan, when Susanna comes forward and tells him to speak lower. Supposing her to be the Countess, he tells her that Susanna is with the Count. She forgets her part and indignantly cries that she will not stir till she is vindicated. Figaro pretends that he knew her all along, and, as the Count again approaches, he falls on his knees and makes fervid love to the lady. The Count is so scandalised to see his wife listening to such protestations that, while she runs into the pavilion on the right, he seizes Figaro and cries for help, ” Genti all’ armi ! ” Don Curzio, Basilio, Antonio, Bartolo and servants with torches respond. The Count rushes into the wrong pavilion and drags out the page in mistake for the Countess, Barbarina and Marcellina following. Discovering his error, he returns and brings out Susanna, who hides her face in her hands. ” My lady ! ” they all exclaim. The Count denounces her; she prays for forgiveness, but he is obdurate. Then the Countess comes out and kneels to him, asking maliciously if Susanna’s prayers can move him ! He is amazed and confounded, and in his turn prays for pardon, which is freely granted, and there is reconciliation and harmony all around.