Dove sono i bei momenti from Le nozze di Figaro
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Length: c. 5 minutes
Orchestration: 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, [harpsichord?? or piano??], strings, and solo soprano
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: July 27, 1933, with soprano Isobel Baillie, Sir Hamilton Harty conducting
The premiere of The Marriage of Figaro took place May 1, 1786, at the Burgtheater in Vienna, with Mozart leading from the keyboard. He had a stellar cast, and the audience reception was so tumultuous that the emperor had to decree that only solos could be encored, simply to keep the running time down. It had, however, only nine performances in this initial run, as it gave way to Vicente Martín y Soler’s Una cosa rara (also on a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte). Pasquale Bondini’s opera company in Prague picked it up and gave enormously popular performances there in December 1786 and January 1787. The opera also had a successful Vienna revival in 1789 (26 performances), and numerous other productions in Germany and Italy during Mozart’s lifetime.
One of numerous highlights is the rondo “Dove sono i bei momenti,” sung by the Countess Almaviva midway through Act III. She is alone after the comic trial in which Figaro’s parents have been identified, foiling one part of her husband’s efforts to separate Figaro from Susanna. The Countess reflects tenderly on the past and wonders if any hope remains for her marriage in elegant yet passionate music, with important embellishment from oboe and bassoon.
— John Henken