The Marriage of Figaro (Le nozze di Figaro) was the first of Mozart’s three great operas on librettos by Lorenzo da Ponte. Mozart brought to da Ponte the wildly popular, hugely controversial five-act play La folle journée, ou Le mariage de Figaro by Pierre-Augustin Beaumarchais, the sequel to Beaumarchais’ Le barbier de Séville. Endlessly frustrated as he was by noble employers and patrons who regarded musicians as simply specialized servants, Mozart was undoubtedly drawn to the politically subversive aspects of the play. Working together, he and da Ponte had the libretto and short score of the opera drafted in six weeks (in October and November 1785), and the work was a huge success at its premiere six months later and in many other productions during Mozart’s lifetime.
The first part of Beaumarchais’ title, La folle journée, means “The Crazy Day,” and the fast and furiously funny action does in fact take place over a single day, in Aguasfrescas, the country estate of Count and Countess Almaviva outside Seville. Mozart begins with a dazzling overture, well known as a concert piece, which does not include references to any of the main numbers of the opera. The arrangement performed tonight is by cellist Douglas B. Moore.
— John Henken