Mozart Le nozze di Figaro
Opera buffa in four acts
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, based on The Marriage of Figaro by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais
Premiere: Vienna, Burgtheater, 1 May 1786
It is one of those theatres, century-old places that have nurtured a spirit, a “house” style for so many years, whose orchestra is made up of musicians from one of the most mythical groups (in our case, nothing less than the Vienna Philharmonic!), standing in a city where the air itself seems to carry the music, and where you must see a performance of an opera by Mozart or Richard Strauss once in your life. For the first time, the Vienna Staatsoper will be giving a unique performance of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro in the Principality, and this a mere few days after having premiered the opera in its famous theatre. Shown in a semi-staged version, this Marriage will be conducted by Philippe Jordan, and his expert performers will let us savour the charms of this particularly idiomatic Viennese style as never before. Thanks to them, Mozart’s music will regain all its poetry, poignancy and its deepest musicality. Even if the spirit of the original comedy is well known, this is an event not to be missed under any circumstances. Rediscover unter practically ideal conditions the strength of feeling and the poetic subtlety with which Mozart’s music empowered Beaumarchais’ play!
WIENER STAATSOPER ORCHESTRA
Coming from an artistic Swiss family, Philippe Jordan’s career has taken him to all the world’s major opera houses, festivals and orchestras, and he is regarded as one of the most established and important conductors of our time. He has been Music Director of the Wiener Staatsoper since September 2020. His career on the podium began as Kapellmeister at Germany’s Stadttheater Ulm and at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin. From 2001-2004 he was principal conductor of Graz Opera and the Graz Philharmonic Orchestra. During this period he also debuted at several of the world’s leading opera houses and festivals, for example the Metropolitan Opera New York, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Teatro alla Scala, Bavarian State Opera, the Wiener Staatsoper, and the festivals of Aix-en-Provence, Glyndebourne and Salzburg. From 2006-2010 he returned to the Berlin State Opera as principal guest conductor. In the summer of 2012 he debuted at the Bayreuth Festival with Parsifal. Philippe Jordan was musical director of the Opéra national de Paris between 2009 and 2021. From 2014-2020 he has also been principal conductor of the Wiener Symphoniker. In the symphonic field he has conducted the world’s most famous orchestras, including the Berliner, Wiener and Münchner Philharmoniker, London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester and the symphony orchestras of Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Washington, Montreal, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.
Katharina Strommer was born in Austria and studied musicology and journalism in Vienna. During her studies she was an intern at the Wiener Staatsoper before being appointed assistant stage director and subsequently stage director. Her repertoire includes 30 different operas, and she has assisted many stage directors such as Otto Schenk, Marco A. Marelli, Laurent Pelly and numerous others. Since the 2015-16 season Katharina Strommer has been principal director (Oberspielleiterin) at the Vienna State Opera, thus responsible for all stage operations. She is also responsible for the reruns and conservation of all the operas of the repertoire as well as accompanying all new productions. Outside the State Opera her engagements have taken her to various festivals in Austria and abroad, notably in Japan, Germany, Finland and Switzerland, where she has gained solid experience. Her own stage productions include Der Vogelhändler (Carl Zeller), My Fair Lady, The Merry Wives of Windsor (Otto Nicolai), Die Fledermaus (Johann Strauss), a semi-staged Fidelio (Festspielhaus St. Pölten), as well as children’s operas.
Born in Vienna in 1993, of Greek origin, Lisa Padouvas studied music, theatre, cinema and media at Vienna University. As well as a personal attraction for music and theatre dating back to her childhood, while a student she discovered a passion for opera during student productions. In the years that followed she acquired precious experience during numerous internships and by working as assistant stage and costumes manager in Austria and Germany. Added to this were her personal projects as stage director, for example Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel during the Musiktheaterfrühling Kilb, or more recently Mozart’s Entführung aus dem Serail at the Château de Gars Opera Festival. Since 2018 Lisa Padouvas has been assistant stage manager and stage manager at the Vienna State Opera, where she has already worked with leading stage directors such as Barrie Kosky, Henry Mason, Marco Arturo Marelli, Simon Stone and Jossi Wieler.
Andrè Schuen comes from the Ladin area of South Tyrol, in Italy, and grew up speaking three languages (Ladin, Italian and German), a versatility reflected in his current vocal repertoire. Although the cello was his chosen instrument for many years, he decided to attend the Mozarteum University in Salzburg, studying singing, song and oratorio. From 2010 to 2014 he was a member of the Graz Opera House ensemble. He portraited Eugene Onegin with the Gulbenkian Orchestra (Lisbon) and at the Vienna State Opera, Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, as well as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte at the Salzburg Festival and at the Bavarian State Opera – alongside Figaro and Don Giovanni one of the roles in which he has already been heard at the Theater an der Wien (Vienna) in Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s celebrated Mozart/Da Ponte cycle. Past highlights on the concert stage include appearances with the Berlin Philharmonic under Simon Rattle, the WDR Symphony Orchestra under Jukka-Pekka Saraste or the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Daniel Harding. With his Lied partner Daniel Heide, he can be heard worldwide in Lied centres such as London’s Wigmore Hall, the Schubertiade, the Schubertiada Vilabertran, at the Heidelberger Frühling or the Oxford Lieder Festival, as well as at renowned concert venues such as Munich’s Prinzregententheater, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw or the Vienna Konzerthaus. With Andreas Haefliger, Andrè Schuen made his US debut in 2017 with recitals at the Tanglewood Festival and the Aspen Music Festival.
Specialized in interpretation of the leading soprano roles in Mozart’s operatic works she recently had a huge success in her role debut as Amelia in Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra in Liège. Plans include: in 2023 a ballet production of Verdi’s Messa da requiem in Amsterdam, Don Giovanni in New York and at Salzburg Festival, La clemenza di Tito in Vienna, La bohème in New York, Anna Bolena in Berlin: in 2024 Don Giovanni, Le nozze di Figaro, Così fan tutte and Simon Boccanegra in Vienna, Le nozze di Figaro in Chicago,… In 2022 she gave her debut at the Royal Opera House in London as Countess in Le nozze di Figaro conducted by Antonio Pappano. In 2021 she debuted in Madrid as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. At Vienna State Opera she performed the Countess, at Salzburg Festival Donna Elvira conducted by Teodor Currentzis. At the Berlin State Opera she performed both Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte) and the Countess conducted by Daniel Barenboim. In New York she was heard as Musetta in La bohème. Highlights of past seasons include Donna Anna in Stuttgart, Cologne and Bologna, Elettra (Idomeneo), the title role of Anna Bolena and Musetta in Milan, Donna Elvira in New York, Fiordiligi in Rome, Turin, Valencia and Munich, the Countess in Rome and Munich. She recorded Desdemona in Otello for Sony with Jonas Kaufmann and conducted by Antonio Pappano. In 2019 she was awarded the Franco Abbiati prize as best singer by the Association of the Italian critics for her exceptional interpretations of the roles in Mozart’s operas in the most important Italian opera houses.
Named “Emerging Opera Singer of the Year” by Opernwelt magazine (2018) and first-prize winner at the renowned Neue Stimmen Competition in 2019 –amongst other prestigious prizes, Anna El-Khashem is a rising star. The Lebanese-Russian soprano completed her musical studies at the State Conservatory in St. Petersburg. She made her Russian debut at the Conservatory as Luisa in Prokofiev’s Betrothal in a Monastery and made her international debut at the Bregenzer Festspiele the following year as Bastienne in Mozart’s Bastien und Bastienne. She was subsequently invited to join the Opera Studio of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich and became a member of the company ensemble in 2017. In 2019, Anna El-Khashem sang her first Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro in Florence. She then joined the ensemble of Staatstheater Wiesbaden, where she has sung many roles. In 2020/21, Anna El-Khashem made her house and role debut at Opéra national de Paris as Servilia in La clemenza di Tito. The next season, she returned to Paris as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro (Opéra Garnier) and for her debut as Zerlina in Don Giovanni (Opéra-Bastille). In the Summer of 2022, she made her triumphant debut at the Verbier Festival as Zerlina (Don Giovanni). The current season began with her role debut as Flavia Gemmira in Cavalli’s Eliogabalo at Opernhaus Zürich and her return at Staatstheater Wiesbaden for her role debut as Marzelline in Fidelio. She will also make her debut at Tonhalle Zürich, Philharmonie de Paris and Festival de Pâques d’Aix-en-Provence.
The young Slovakian bass/bass-baritone Peter Kellner joined the ensemble of the Vienna State Opera in the 2018-19 season. In the 2021-22 season he returned to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London as Papageno (Die Zauberflöte). He made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York as Colline (La bohème). At his parent company in Vienna he could be seen as Masetto in the new production of Don Giovanni, as Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro and as Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia. Recent highlights have been Colline in London, Il Re di Scozia in Ariodante and Leporello in Don Giovanni at the Vienna State Opera and Brander in La Damnation de Faust at the Salzburg Festival. In addition, Peter Kellner gave concerts in Seville, Prague, Krasnoyarsk and Mallorca. In recent years, he portrayed Panthée (Les Troyens) at the Vienna State Opera, Ratcliffe (Billy Budd) at London’s Royal Opera House, Figaro (Le nozze di Figaro) at the Glyndebourne Festival and the Vienna Volksoper, Papageno at the Teatro de la Maestranza in Sevilla and at the Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi in Trieste, Colline and Leporello at the Slovak National Theater in Bratislava. During his tenure as member of the ensemble at Oper Graz (from 2015-16 to 2017-18) he portrayed many roles, including the title role of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. Peter Kellner studied at the Conservatory in Košice, at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, and he completed his bachelor’s degree at the Kunstuniversität Graz.
Stephanie Houtzeel was born in Kassel, Germany and grew up near Boston. She studied Political Science and French at Middlebury College before obtaining her Master’s at the Juilliard School. She won top honors at the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Competition and at the Juilliard Vocal Arts Debut Competition. She has been a member of the Vienna State Opera ensemble since 2010 where her roles have included Octavian (Der Rosenkavalier), der Komponist (Ariadne auf Naxos), the title role in Handel’s Ariodante, Dorabella (Così fan tutte), Orlofsky (Die Fledermaus) or Nicklausse (Les Contes d’Hoffmann). She created the role of Miranda in the Vienna world premiere of The Tempest by Thomas Ades and the role of La Haine in Vienna’s first staging of Armide (Gluck). The Strauss “trouser-roles” have taken Stephanie around the world: among others, she sang Octavian opposite Renée Fleming at the Kennedy Center (Washington) and under Philippe Jordan at the Opéra Bastille (Paris). She has sung the Komponist in Zurich, Vienna and Tokyo under Fabio Luisi, Sir Jeffrey Tate, Franz Welser-Möst and Marek Janowski. A recent highlight has been the title role in Handel’s Serse, at the Komische Oper Berlin, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein and in Graz. Further engagements have taken her to the Salzburg and Bayreuth Festivals. Stephanie has performed in concert with many of the world’s leading orchestras and ensembles including the Vienna Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam and the Hong Kong Philharmonic.
Born in Vienna, Norbert Ernst studied with Gerd Fussi at the Josef Matthias Hauer Conservatory in Wiener Neustadt, and with Robert Holl and Charles Spencer at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. He furthered his studies by attending masterclasses with Walter Berry and Kurt Equiluz. In 2014 he celebrated his tenth anniversary as a soloist at the Bayreuth Festival in the role of Loge in Das Rheingold - a role in which he is considered one of the world's specialists and has performed around the globe: Vienna, Paris, Munich, Berlin or New York. Norbert Ernst is also a guest at important international festivals such as the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland and the Salzburg Festival. In 2016 his solo CD Lebt kein Gott was released by Decca. Numerous DVD releases of his performances in Vienna, Barcelona, St. Gallen, Bayreuth and Salzburg testify to his artistic versatility. Recent projects include Tristan (Tristan und Isolde) at the Vienna Kammeroper and in Bratislava, Walter von Stolzing (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg) in Tokyo, the title role in Tannhäuser at the Wuppertal Opera House and the Royal Opera House in London, Siegmund (Die Walküre) in Valencia and his debut at La Scala in Ariadne auf Naxos and then as Shuysky (Boris Godunov). In previous years he had already considerably expanded his repertoire with Lohengrin in Marseille and Montpellier, Paul (Die tote Stadt) in Kiel and Vienna and Florestan (Fidelio) in St. Gallen. He has already been heard at the Monte-Carlo Opera in a highly acclaimed Pilot in Der fliegende Holländer.
Andrea Giovannini originally studied as an actor at the Galante Garrone Acting School in Bologna, where he graduated in 1990. After working as an actor with various theatre companies, he began to study singing and made his opera debut as Danilo in The Merry Widow. He took part in the historical production of Così fan tutte, directed by Giorgio Strehler, at the Piccolo Teatro in Milan. He began his career as tenor in the role of Fenton in Falstaff in 2007 at the Grange Park Festival in London; Rodolfo in La bohème in Dublin; Alfredo in La traviata in Nurnberg, Dijon and at the Saint-Céré Festival (France). Other debuts followed: Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi in Modena; Camille de Rosillon in The Merry Widow in Naples and Rome under Daniel Oren; Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor in Dijon; Tamino (Die Zauberflöte) in Massy; Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore with the Opera Zuid. Past performances also include Manon Lescaut (Maestro di ballo) under Riccardo Muti, Lucia di Lammermoor (Normanno), Le nozze di Figaro (Basilio), Tosca (Spoletta), Eugene Onegin, Benvenuto Cellini, and La traviata in Rome; L’Amour des trois oranges and Manon Lescaut (Edmondo) in Florence; Madama Butterfly (Goro) in Naples and Parma; La forza del destino and Falstaff in Parma; Nabucco (Abdallo) in Cagliari; Norma (Flavio) in Turin; La rondine (Prunier) in Lucca, Pisa, Livorno, Modena, and Ravenna. Future engagements include Il tabarro at the Salzburg Festival, and La forza del destino in Parma.
Stefan Cerny studied opera, song and oratorio as well as musical, operetta and chanson at the conservatory of his hometown Vienna and graduated with distinctions in 2004. He is regularly employed at all three opera houses in Vienna and has been closely associated with the Volksoper Vienna since 2001, where he is currently also considered a permanent member again. Guest appearances of recent years led him to London’s Royal Opera House Covent Garden (Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte), the Vienna State Opera (Rocco in Fidelio, Osmin in Die Entführung aus dem Serail), the Theater an der Wien (Wozzeck, Maria Stuarda, Peter Grimes), the Cologne Opera (Fidelio), the Komische Oper Berlin (Die Zauberflöte) as well as Opéra national de Lyon (Sparafucile in Rigoletto), the Opera houses in Nuremberg and Munich, as well as to the Bregenz Festival, the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, the Vienna Konzerthaus, the Salzburg Haus für Mozart and many more. Stefan Cerny was awarded the Austrian Music Theatre Prize 2019 for his portrayal of the Doctor in Wozzeck at the Theater an der Wien (Vienna). He is also a winner of the Vienna Fidelio Competition. His repertoire includes, among others, Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau (Der Rosenkavalier), Daland (Der fliegende Holländer), Leporello (Don Giovanni), Basilio (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Talbot (Maria Stuarda), Alidoro (La Cenerentola), Timur (Turandot), Colline (La bohème) and Swallow (Peter Grimes).
Born in Vienna, Wolfgang Bankl studied the violin, lied and oratorio as well as opera at the Vienna Conservatory of Music. His first engagements were with the Vienna Chamber Opera, the Kiel Opera House and the Tyrolean State Theatre. Guest performances have taken him to Zurich, Hamburg, Cologne, Barcelona, Salzburg, Strasbourg, La Scala in Milan, the Wiener Festwochen in Vienna, Tokyo, Tel Aviv, Rome, New York and Paris. In 2012 he made his debut as Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier at the Semperoper in Dresden under Christian Thielemann. The production of Parsifal in Birmingham, under Andris Nelsons, with him as Klingsor, was voted British Cultural Event of the Year in 2015. He is co-founder of the chamber music festival Giro d’Arte and has been an ensemble member of the Vienna State Opera since 1993. Performances at the Vienna State Opera include Papageno (Die Zauberflöte), Alberich (Rheingold), Ochs, the Doctor (Wozzeck), Klingsor, Antonio (Le nozze di Figaro), Harašta (The Cunning Little Vixen). Since 2007 he has been a lecturer at the Allegro Vivo Chamber Music Festival.
Swedish soprano Johanna Wallroth was thrust into the limelight when she took First Prize at the prestigious Mirjam Helin International Singing Competition in 2019. She subsequently joined the Opernstudio of Vienna State Opera for two seasons and was the recipient of the coveted Birgit Nilsson Scholarship in 2021. Initially training as a dancer at the Royal Swedish Ballet School, she subsequently focused her principal study on voice and went on to graduate from Vienna’s Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst. In 2013, she made her operatic debut as Barbarina (Le nozze di Figaro) at Ulriksdal Palace Theatre, Stockholm. In the 2019-20 season, she made her role debut as Zerlina (Don Giovanni) to great acclaim in a live-streamed semi-staged performance with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Daniel Harding. During her 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons at Vienna State Opera, she appeared on stage in a variety of roles including Barbarina in a livestream performance Le nozze di Figaro under Music Director Philippe Jordan, Giannetta (L’elisir d’amore), and Ida (Die Fledermaus). The 2022-23 season opened with a debut at Drottningholm Festival as Leocasta in Vivaldi’s Il Giustino, and with her first appearance at Opernhaus Zürich in a ballet production based on the madrigals of Monteverdi. Named as Classical Artist in Residence for the 2022-23 season by the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, she joins the orchestra for several concerts across the season including Berg’s Sieben frühe Lieder with Daniel Harding, Mozart arias with Martin Fröst and Schubert’s Mass in E-flat with András Schiff.
Assistant tour manager
Wiener Staatsoper Orchestra
Choir of the Wiener Staatsoper
Segarra María Isabel
Last Kaya Maria
Hara Christoph Levente
What does Monte Carlo mean to you?
I have a special relationship with Monte Carlo in more ways than one. Among other things, because my father [Ed.: the late Swiss conductor Armin Jordan] conducted the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo –not least, he recorded the music for Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s Parsifal film with this orchestra, in which he also portrayed Amfortas. Incidentally my first, intense encounter with Parsifal. And: there were talks about my taking over the OPMC! But in the end Paris prevailed…
How do you sense the heritage of the Viennese Classical period in Austria, how is it imparted?
When working with the wonderful Orchestra of the Vienna Staatsoper, you can always feel how much the music from the Viennese Classical period is anchored in the DNA of these musicians: you notice it in the way they play, in their sound and especially in their unique phrasing. They all know how to phrase collectively, how to breathe and feel together: that is cultivated in Vienna, in Austria, from an early age and passed on and handed down in this orchestra over a long period of time.
How do you cultivate this heritage?
Mozart remains the foundation of the Vienna Staatsoper’s extensive repertoire, and everything else is built upon it: also how you play Verdi and Wagner, or how you develop the ensemble of singers. Therefore, the preservation of this style remains one of our top priorities. And our idea of reviving the concept of a Mozart ensemble aims at establishing a consistent style for the Staatsoper in general.
The Orchestra of the Vienna Staatsoper…
… has an incredible personality and is characterised by the magnificent Viennese sound –the Wiener Klang–, i.e. a soft and warm tone that emanates from, among others, unique instruments such as the Viennese horn, oboe and timpani. Therefore, this orchestra’s sound is by nature far closer to Mozart’s times than that of most other groups.One often associates it with the Romantic period, but the references to the Classical period are almost stronger.
How do you see the ensemble of the Vienna Staatsoper and how do you look after it?
The outstanding ensemble of singers is a cornerstone of our institution! Together, we spend much time at music rehearsals: there, we work on articulation, colours, dynamics and the text. Mozart is also incredibly important and healthy for what we call our “musical hygiene”!
A tip for Cecilia Bartoli in her new position as director of an opera house?
Stay the way you are!
Figaro’s and Susanna’s bedroom. Figaro, the valet, is measuring the space for his nuptial bed, offered to him by Count Almaviva. Meanwhile Susanna, Figaro’s fiancée, tries on the bridal hat she will be wearing for their wedding that day (duet “Cinque, dieci, venti, trenta”). Their bedroom has been assigned to them by the Count, but Susanna is upset when she finds out that it is next door to their masters’ bedroom. Figaro, on the contrary, is delighted (duet “Se a caso madama”). Susanna explains that she is unhappy because the Count has started to pursue her as he is bored with his wife. Aided and abetted by Basilio the Count is trying to seduce her, even though he has officially abolished the feudal right which authorizes the lord of the manor to sleep with his servant’s bride. Alone, Figaro vows to foil his master’s plans (aria “Se vuol ballare”). He exits.
Marcellina, the old housekeeper, enters with Dottor Bartolo. She shows him a document signed by Figaro promising to marry her, and she is determined for him to honour his promise. Bartolo is only too happy to take revenge on Figaro and he promises to help her (aria “La vendetta”); he leaves. When Susanna arrives Marcellina begins to insult her, but her provocation backfires and she leaves (duet “Via resti servita, Madama brillante”). The page Cherubino arrives, he is very upset. He tells Susanna that the Count dismissed him when he caught him flirting with Barbarina. Chastised by Susanna for not controlling his youthful impulses Cherubino confesses to her that he is unhappy in love. He snatches from her a ribbon belonging to the Countess with whom he is in love (aria “Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio”).
Hearing the Count’s voice Cherubino hides behind the armchair so as not to be caught alone again with a woman. Unaware of the page’s presence, the Count begins to pursue Susanna and tries to get her to agree to a rendez-vous in the garden. They then hear Basilio coming and the Count also dives behind the armchair forcing Cherubino to jump out from his hiding place into the armchair and hide under a dress. Basilio tries to persuade Susanna to give in to the Count, advising her not to show too much affection towards the page as they suspect him of having an eye on the Countess. Hearing this the Count jumps out from his hiding place, vowing to punish Cherubino. Susanna tries in vain to defend him. The Count says that he found the page trying to woo Barbarina and lifts up the dress under which he is hiding. (trio “Cosa sento! Tosto andate, e scacciate il seduttor”). His angry outburst is interrrupted by the arrival of Figaro and a group of peasants who have come to thank the Count for abolishing the droit de seigneur on his land (chorus “Giovani liete”). Figaro asks the Count to place the bridal veil on Susanna to symbolize the abolition of this wicked feudal right. The Count is outraged by this provocation and discreetly asks Basilio to prevent the wedding by helping Marcellina to marry Figaro. Susanna vainly begs the Count to forgive Cherubino, but he decides to draft him into his regiment in Sevilla. Figaro pretends to tease the young lad, but in an aside promises to speak with him before he departs (aria “Non più andrai, farfallone amoroso”).
The Countess is alone in her boudoir lamenting her condition as a neglected wife (aria “Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro”). Susanna enters and tells her mistress of her husband’s attempts to seduce her. Figaro then appears intent on confronting the Count. The three of them concoct a plan to unmask the flighty Count: they will send him an anonymous letter saying that the Countess is unfaithful to him. Susanna will set up a rendez-vous with the Count, but it is Cherubino disguised as Susanna who will go to the rendez-vous; they will then be caught out by the Countess. Cherubino is sent for and the Countess urges him to sing the love song which he composed for her (aria “Voi, che sapete che cosa é amor”). Susanna dresses Cherubino up as a woman and does his hair; she notices that there is no seal on his regimental commission (aria “Venite inginocchiatevi”). When Susanna leaves the room to fetch a ribbon the Count suddenly appears. Cherubino jumps inside the closet and locks the door. The Count hears the noise and tries to force the closet door open because his suspicions about his wife’s infidelity have been aroused by the anonymous letter. The Countess pretends that it is only Susanna trying on her wedding gown (terzetto “Susanna, or via sortite”). Meanwhile Susanna has returned and watches the scene hidden behind the bed. The Count decides to go and fetch some tools to force the closet door open and takes his wife with him. Before leaving the room they lock all the doors. Susanna seizes the opportunity to take Cherubino’s place in the closet. Cherubino’s only option is to leave by the window (duettino “Aprite presto, aprite”). The Count and Countess return; the Countess reveals the truth to him, that it is not Susanna who is hiding in the closet but Cherubino and that it is all a harmless prank. The Count is furious and threatens to kill the page. But he discovers Susanna in the closet. He asks the Countess to forgive him, which she does. Figaro then arrives and invites everyone to the wedding. The Count shows him the anonymous letter. The two women admit that Figaro wrote it. At first Figaro denies it, but finally confesses. Antonio the gardener then appears and shows a broken vase to the Count, claiming that it had been broken by a man who had jumped out of the window. Figaro saves the situation by saying that he is the culprit. But Antonio then shows them a document he had found which had been dropped by the fugitive. Recognizing it as the letter officially appointing Cherubino as an officer it is now the women’s turn to save the situation and Figaro. They say that Cherubino had given it to Figaro so that he could ask the Count to put his official seal on it. Marcellina, Bartolo and Basilio enter demanding justice for the old governess whom Figaro had promised to marry. The Count decides to postpone the wedding until he has sorted out this confusing situation.
The wedding hall. The Count is pondering over the latest developments when Susanna enters. Unknown to Figaro she and the Countess have devised a plan whereby Susanna asks Almaviva to meet her that evening (duet “Crudel, perchè finora”). In reality it is the Countess who will go to the rendez-vous, wearing her chambermaid’s clothes. As Susanna leaves the room she bumps into Figaro. She assures him that he will win the case Marcellina has brought against him. The Count overhears this and, realizing that he has been duped, vows to seek revenge (aria “Vedrò mentr’io sospiro”).
The trial begins. The judge, Don Curzio, orders Figaro to either repay Marcellina or marry her. Figaro tries to play for time by arguing that his parents are not there to consent to the marriage. He tells them about his childhood as an abandoned child and shows them a birthmark on his right arm. Marcellino recognizes him as her son Raffaello, the love-child she had had with Don Bartolo. Susanna arrives with the dowry offered by the Countess as repayment of the Marcellina’s loan. When she sees Figaro tenderly embracing Marcellina she slaps him, but the old woman explains the latest developments to her. She and Bartolo are to be legally wed, and so there will be a double wedding! (sextet “Riconosci in questo amplesso una madre”). Meanwhile Cherubino has still not left to join his regiment. Barbarina urges him to disguise himself as a woman and to join the group of peasant girls who are going to present flowers to the Countess. Alone, the Countess is reflecting on the happiness she has lost and vows to win her husband back (recitativo accompagnato ed aria “Deh Susanna non vien... Dove sono i bei momenti”). Susanna arrives to tell her the latest news. The Countess dictates a love letter to her to take to the Count, confirming their assignation (duettino “Che soave zefiretto”). As a sign that he agrees to the rendez-vous the Count must return the pin attached to the letter. A chorus of peasant girls, including Cherubino, arrives to serenade the Countess. Antonio quickly unmasks Cherubino and denounces him to the Count who is furious.
Figaro arrives to invite everyone to the wedding and the Count can at last accuse him of all the lies he told in the Countess’s boudoir. While the wedding march is preparing to set off and a fandango is playing, Susanna gives the Count the letter about the assignation. He pricks himself with the pin and drops it, which makes him twice as angry. Figaro helps him to find the pin, thinking that the letter is from a peasant woman. As soon as the pin is retrieved the Count invites everyone to the banquet.
In the garden. Barbarina has lost the pin which the Count had sent her to return to Susanna and is desparately looking for it (cavatina “L’ho perduta, me meschina”). She meets Figaro who realizes that the writer of the letter is none other than his young wife. In a fit of jealous rage he seeks comfort from his mother who tries to calm (aria “Il capro e la capretta”). Basilio and Bartolo, who have been sent for by Figaro, reflect on the danger of associating with the high and mighty (aria “In quegli anni, in cui val poco”). Figaro is left alone with his bitter thoughts: he is betrayed by his wife on the very day of of his wedding, and he accuses women of being the ruin of mankind (recitativo accompagnato ed aria “Tutto è disposto... Aprite un po’ quegli occhi”).
Susanna and the Countess enter the garden wearing each other’s clothes. They are followed by Marcellina. Susanna pretends to linger behind to enjoy the breeze, infuriating Figaro (aria “Deh vieni, non tardar”). While the Countess is waiting for the Count at the agreed meeting place Cherubino arrives. Mistaking her for Susanna he tries to kiss her (finale “Pian pianin le andrò più presso”). Figaro observes the scene from his hiding place, venting his bitterness, not realizing that the real Susanna is a couple of feet away from him. The Count then arrives. Furious to find his paramour with another man he tries to slap Cherubino but slaps Figaro instead who has come out of his hiding place.
Alone at last with “Susanna” the Count starts wooing her ; he offers her a ring and tries to lure her into a pavilion. Unable to take it any longer, Figaro makes a noise which makes the Countess run into the pavilion to hide. The Count exits to find out what is going on. Figaro is joined by Susanna who is wearing the Countess’s cloak and imitating her voice. Figaro begins to tell her about the Count’s intentions, but suddenly realizing that it is his wife he pretends to court her. In a fit of jealousy Susanna slaps him. The situation then becomes clear and the newlyweds lovingly reconcile. The Count remains to be confounded. Seeing him arrive Figaro and Susanna continue their game of seduction. The enraged Count seizes Figaro and calls for his entourage to witness the Countess’s adultery (“Gente, gente! All’armi, all’armi!”). In front of Antonio, Basilio, Bartolo and Curzio, he accuses his valet of trying to seduce the Countess. Cherubino comes out of the pavilion, followed by Barbarina, Marcellina and lastly Susanna whom everyone thinks is the Countess. They all condemn her, and Figaro pretends to show remorse. The real Countess then comes out of the other pavilion and exchanges her cloak with Susanna’s. Realizing that he has been tricked the Count asks for his wife’s forgiveness and she grants it. Everyone rejoices over the happy ending and they all leave to rejoin the wedding celebrations.
Claire Delamarche © Opéra de Monte-Carlo 2023
Translated by Mary McCabe
The structure of the opera house was planned by the Viennese architect August Sicard von Sicardsburg, while the inside was designed by interior decorator Eduard van der Nüll. It was also impacted by other major artists such as Moritz von Schwind, who painted the frescoes in the foyer, and the famous “Zauberflöten” (“Magic Flute”) series of frescoes on the veranda. Neither of the architects survived to see the opening of ‘their’ opera house: the sensitive van der Nüll committed suicide, and his friend Sicardsburg died of a stroke soon afterwards.
On May 25, 1869, the opera house solemnly opened with Mozart's Don Giovanni in the presence of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth. The popularity of the building grew under the artistic influence of the first directors: Franz von Dingelstedt, Johann Herbeck, Franz Jauner, and Wilhelm Jahn. The Vienna opera experienced its first high point under the direction of Gustav Mahler. He completely transformed the outdated performance system, increased the precision and timing of the performances, and also utilized the experience of other noteworthy artists, such as Alfred Roller, for the formation of new stage aesthetics.
The years 1938 to 1945 were a dark chapter in the history of the opera house. Under the Nazis, many members of the house were driven out, pursued, and killed, and many works were not allowed to be played.
On March 12, 1945, the opera house was devastated during a bombing, but on May 1, 1945, the Staatsoper “at the Volksoper” opened with a performance of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. On October 6, 1945, the hastily restored Theater an der Wien reopened with Beethoven's Fidelio. For the next ten years the Vienna State Opera operated in two venues while the true headquarters was being rebuilt at a great expense
The Secretary of State for Public Works, Julius Raab, announced on May 24, 1945, that reconstruction of the Vienna State Opera would begin immediately. Only the main facade, the grand staircase, and the Schwind Foyer had been spared from the bombs. On November 5, 1955, the Vienna State Opera reopened with a new auditorium and modernized technology. Under the direction of Karl Böhm, Beethoven’s Fidelio was brilliantly performed, and the opening ceremonies were broadcast by Austrian television. The whole world understood that life was beginning again for this country that had just regained its independence.
Today, the Vienna State Opera is considered one of the most important opera houses in the world; in particular, it is the house with the largest repertoire. It has been under the direction of Bogdan Roščić since July 1, 2020.
©Wiener Staatsoper, 2023
In the preface of the bilingual libretto (Italian/German) of Le nozze di Figaro, printed in Vienna in 1786, Lorenzo Da Ponte wrote of his desire to “offer to a public of such refined taste and enlightened mind a new genre, as it were, of performance”. This collaboration, the first between Mozart and the librettist, who would go on to offer him Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte, marked a turning point in the evolution of Mozart’s opera career, in fact of the history of opera itself.
Never before, since the interludes of opera seria had been emancipated and authorized to form opera buffa, circa 1730, had a work in this genre ever shown such ambition in the complexity and balance of its intrigue, the diversity of emotions displayed, and, above all, in the noblesse of the music. However, the birth of this their first child was not without difficulty, due as much to the problems of censorship as to the myriad of intrigues abounding at the Italian Theatre of the Court of Vienna, re-opened in 1783 after an eclipse of seven years (during which the Emperor tried to make it exclusively German) and directed by Antonio Salieri, under the leadership of Count Franz Xaver Wolf Orsini-Rosenberg, artistic director of the Imperial Theatres.
In the absence of any correspondence between the two authors, we do know, however, from Da Ponte’s memoirs, the origin of Le nozze– although his narrative can be unreliable. The two admired each other and it was in their mutual interest to work together. Da Ponte was the official court poet and hoped that his career would connect with Mozart’s, whose obvious brilliance would reflect on his own glory. As for Mozart, who at the time was looking for an Italian libretto as well as a commission, there were only benefits to be gained from winning the poet’s favour.
According to Da Ponte the idea for Le nozze came from a conversation with Mozart: this “vast, multiform, sublime subject” appeared to Da Ponte to truly satisfy the “enormity of his genius”. It only remained for them to obtain the imperial authorisation to treat a subject as subversive as Le nozze di Figaro. In the same way that Louis XVI had for a long time forbidden the premiere of Beaumarchais’ play (written circa 1778, it wasn’t until 1784 that the play was finally presented to the public of the Comédie-Française, although printed versions had circulated secretly), his brother-in-law Joseph II, in February 1785, had forbidden the Emanuel Schikaneder troupe to perform its German version in Vienna.
Da Ponte claimed full credit for having swayed the Emperor, but the Sovereign’s interest in the young Mozart undoubtedly lent weight to his decision. Also, contrary to what Da Ponte would have us believe, it was clearly Joseph II who requested and obtained that the intrigue be expunged of its most political elements, notably Beaumarchais’ sharp criticisms of the aristocracy. Nevertheless, the Emperor allowed the licentious aspects of the dramatic plot to remain intact, proof of this enlightened monarch’s tolerance, but who was also perhaps not averse to targeting an aristocracy and their, at times, poor virtues, thereby winning the sympathy of the rising bourgeoisie. In addition, Joseph II’s interest in the project is shown by the inclusion of a ballet, whereas he had previously prohibited using dance in opera. Da Ponte’s rivals seized the opportunity to blow out of proportion this breach of the rules. According to the poet, it was the Emperor himself who requested that the ball be added, which the authors had deliberately refrained from including in the wedding scene. The Emperor considered that the lack of a ball seriously affected the credibility of the action.
The score was essentially composed in six weeks, from mid-October to the end of November 1785. Mozart worked intermittently on the orchestration until the spring; he added the opera to his catalogue on 29 April 1786. Totally in keeping with the spirit of the time, and driven by a frenzied theatrical rhythm, Le nozze di Figaro gave Mozart the most magnificent success of his career. After the premiere at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 1st May 1786, a further eight performances followed, hailed by many encores. However, the triumph of Vicente Martín y Soler’s opera buffa, Una cosa rara, (from which Mozart reproduces a musical theme in the banquet scene in Don Giovanni) led to the disappearance of Le nozze from the music scene in Vienna. Nevertheless, it did go on to triumph in Prague, followed by performances in major European capitals. Le nozze indeed saw an eclipse during the 19th century, which was generally not very sensitive to Mozart’s charms. But, re-adapted to current tastes at the end of WW1 (mainly thanks to the creation of the Salzburg Festival, where it was performed in 1922), Le nozze, since then, has never left centre stage.
Claire Delamarche, translated by Mary McCabe © Opéra de Monte-Carlo 2023
In Beaumarchais’ Le Barbier de Séville the young Rosine, Bartholo’s ward, is infatuated with Count Almaviva and his wife, thanks to the scheming plans of the barber Figaro, and to the annoyance of her tutor Bartholo who wants her for himself. In the follow-up, La Folle Journée, ou Le Mariage de Figaro, we see Countess Almaviva abandoned by her dissolute husband. He covets the chamber maid Suzanne who that same day is due to marry Figaro, now the Count’s servant. The Count wants to exercise his jus primæ noctis (right of the first night), but above all to maintain a regular liaison with the young bride. The curtain rises on Figaro wondering how to arrange the couple’s future bedroom. The room assigned to the young couple by the Count is so small that Figaro wonders if the bed will fit in. As a further symbol of the master’s power, their bedroom is located half-way between the Count’s and Countess’s bedrooms, a situation that places the two servants at the mercy of their masters. This “folle journée” ends in the garden, by moonlight, just as the wedding festivities begin. Between the hyper-confined universe of the initial scenes and the final breath of fresh air, the day of madness sees the craziest adventures unfold, the triumph of the servants, elevated to the rank of principal roles, and the turpitudes of their master.
There are four competing couples, playing a double game of symmetry: on one side the two principal couples, the aristocrats Almaviva, and the servants Figaro and Suzanne; on the other side the secondary couples, the elderly Marceline and Bartholo and the youthful Chérubin and Barberine. The quid pro quos they grapple with bounce from one character to another in a perpetual domino effect, and the smoke and mirrors game is accentuated by the sleight of hand they all play (trickery, games of hide and seek, disguises), with a hilarious high point in the garden scene – Suzanne and the Countess have exchanged their coats and disguised their voices to confound the Count, who also disguises his voice to trick Figaro who receives several slaps in the face which are not all meant for him…The climax of this story within a story is undoubtedly the duet where Figaro, who has come to reveal to the alleged Countess the liaison he thinks he has discovered between the Count and Suzanne, but discovers that he is fact speaking to his own wife and then titillates her jealousy by pretending to woo the Countess.
Yet, behind the buffoonery of the intrigue, the play, and subsequently the libretto, reveal an uncommon range of emotions which far exceeds that instilled by Paisiello in his Il barbiere di Siviglia, composed in 1787, and even by Rossini in 1816 in his own work of the same title. For his part, Mozart does full justice to Beaumarchais’ complexity. Since Entführung aus des Serail, written in German four years earlier, the composer had considerably refined his orchestral composition skills, notably his major piano concertos (Nos. 20 to 24): the woodwinds are given an essential role, the range of characters has come into play and, by their lyricism, vivacity and colours, many of the movements of these concertos even appear a posteriori as anticipations of this major work. Mozart also displays his maturity in his mastery of the rhythm and polyphony of the ensembles, particularly in the dazzling finale of Act II, an irresistible crescendo lasting 25 minutes, where the number of protagonists, at first limited to two (the Count and Countess), in the end is increased to as many as seven.
Beaumarchais’ social criticism is sublimated in a human comedy where the underlying lightness and wit blend with darker emotions, in fact a certain violence in the anger, pride and jealousy – Stendhal saw in this work ¨an exquisite blend of wit and melancholy”: for the first time since the separation between opera seria and opera buffa, the boundary between the two genres wavers, and the characters acquire a new depth. These sentiments are condensed in the arias invented ex nihilo by Da Ponte for his brilliant composer who then amplified the subtleties.
Bartolo’s extravagant call for revenge, displaying all the clichés of an opera buffa aria (aria “La vendetta, oh la vendetta”), has nothing in common with that of Figaro who, urged on by quiet anger, is determined to defy the Count (cavatina “Se vuol ballare”). The adolescent declaration of love for the Countess by a blushing Cherubino (arietta “Voi che sapete”) responds, without any duplication, to the anxious aria where he admits his distress at love’s mysteries (“Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio”). The pretty portrait of Cherubino, a young boy on the threshold of adulthood, entangled in the discovery of his sexual desire (his departure for the regiment symbolises his passage “to the other side of the mirror”) is just one of the aspects taken on by Eros, the principal motor of the intrigue. It is also noticeable in Marcellina’s and Bartolo’s schemings, in the Countess’s anguished nostalgia (so magnificently personified by the cavatina “Porgi amor”), in the Count’s yearning for amorous conquests and, of course, in the wedding capers of Susanna and Figaro, whose only wish, in the end, is for a happy married life, like any other bourgeois couple, or like what their masters had enjoyed, marrying for love at the end of Le Barbier de Séville.
At the summit of the score are three arias with “accompanied” recitatives, i.e. written in extenso for the orchestra and not accentuated by figures improvised by just the harpsichord on a figured bass. By their sudden splendour these three diptychs transport the work to the very limits of opera seria and are assigned to the noble characters. The most significant of them, the emotional heart of the opera, is the grand aria in which the Countess laments being abandoned by her husband (recitative and aria “E Susanna non vien… / Dove sono”, an amplified echo of “Porgi amor”). The response comes from both sides of this summit, in dramatic stages which rhythm the long fresque of the four acts, namely the Count’s aria vowing revenge on those who have duped him (recitative and aria “Hai già vinta la causa ! / Vedrò mentr’io sospiro”), and the aria of Susanna disguised as the Countess and feigning to seduce Figaro (recitative and aria “Giunse alfin il momento / Deh vieni, non tardar”). Although the arias of the Countess and the Count respond to each other from a distance, playing on the contrasts of tessitura and character (masculine aria of fury/feminine aria of lamentation), the pair formed by the arias of the two “Countesses” (the real one and the fake one), on the contrary, play on the idea of the resemblance between the model and its imitation, whose simplicity of accompaniment (a “grand” orchestral guitar) is due far more to its serenade genre than to the character’s low extraction.
However, by assuming on several occasions her mistress’s destiny, going as far as symbolically exchanging her appearance with her and experiencing the same anguish of doubt, jealousy and sadness, Susanna positions herself as the Countess’s double, more than as a caricature. Their common destiny is sealed by the affinity between these two grand arias and recitatives, as well as the letter duet (duettino “Sull’aria”). The force of each aria is strengthened by the other, and in the end the triumph of Le nozze is perhaps that of the women. But we are reassured by the final scene: the Count’s public humiliation should not be taken too tragically, the clouds accumulated here or there in the score are dispersed by the firework display which opens the banquet. Le nozze ends with none of the bitterness that reigns at the end of the “joyful drama” (dramma giocoso) Don Giovanni, where the hero, over the course of the scenes, acquires an increasingly tragic dimension. In Le nozze, the final word goes to merriment and pleasure.
Claire Delamarche, translated by Mary McCabe © Opéra de Monte-Carlo 2023
The prestigious Vienna Staatsoper was heavily damaged by bombing at the end of the Second World War and was no longer in working order. With a 150-year history, the institution experienced a particularly important post-war period from 1945 until the reopening of the theatre on the Ring in 1955. It was during this decade that Josef Krips developed a style of interpretation remarkable for its delicate sound, transparent and refined, with the support of the musicians of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra – which he was the first to conduct after the end of the war. He thus moved away from the romantic standards that demanded a robust, and voluminous orchestra, far removed from what might have existed in the eighteenth century.
The ensemble created by Krips quickly became famous for its idiomatic approach to Mozart's singing and also for its more natural and subtle stage acting. Among the singers he gathered around him at the Theater an der Wien, the ‘home’ theatre of the bombed Staatsoper, were Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Irmgard Seefried, Sena Jurinac, Wilma Lipp, Anton Dermota, Erich Kunz and Paul Schöffler. With remarkable self-discipline and passion, these singers put themselves at the service of their art, supported by stage directors such as Alfred Jerger and Oscar Fritz Schuh. The terrible hardships of the time did not dampen this shared enthusiasm.
A first performance of the Ensemble in Vienna in May 1945, followed by numerous tours (to the Salzburg Festival and the Royal Opera-Covent Garden in London, among others), brought to the world what we know today as the “Viennese style”.
SB ©Opéra de Monte-Carlo, 2023