MOZART: Overture and “Dove Sono i bei momenti” from Le Nozze di Figaro
by Jeff Counts
The Marriage of Figaro was the first of three successful collaborations between librettist Lorenzo da Ponte and Mozart. Based on the second part of the Beaumarchais Figaro Trilogy, Mozart’s brilliant opera buffa continues the story begun with The Barber of Seville. As the curtain lifts, we find ourselves among the familiar characters on the day of Figaro’s wedding to Susanna, but the ceremony is delayed by various intrigues, plots and other flights of aristocratic spoofery. Figaro shows, as much as anything he ever wrote, Mozart’s effortless genius for the pairing of literary absurdity and stunningly beautiful music. That the opera would become the beloved repertory standard it is today, however, was not immediately apparent. The play was banned at first and it took some effort by da Ponte to get permission for his libretto treatment. Also afoot in Vienna at that time was the ongoing feud between the Italian supporters of Antonio Salieri and his perceived artistic “enemies,” Mozart not least among them. Salieri and da Ponte had been court colleagues, but professional differences left the poet free to join Mozart. Both men would benefit greatly from the new alliance. Once complete, Figaro enjoyed a successful premiere but only eight more performances in Vienna, where paid hecklers attempted to bring Mozart down. Mozart soon took the production on the road to Prague, and it was there that the history begins to match our own affection. The aria “Dove sono i bei momenti” occurs halfway into Act III. Countess Almaviva has paused for a moment to reflect on the many emotional crosses she must bear, thanks to her philandering husband – loneliness, humiliation and, of course, righteous indignation.