Mozart’s Figaro

I’ve been watching my new DVD of David McVicar’s production of Le nozze di Figaro over and over, and I still don’t understand the plot. The outline is clear, and unlike many operas it is dramatically plausible — within the conventions of the genre. The emotional and psychological truth of its geat arias has nothing to do with that, but in the case of Figaro they fit easily within a coherent structure. However, I still can’t work out exactly what lies behind the machinations of Dr. Bartolo and Don Basilio, or who’s thinking quite what when Susanna and the Countess swap disguises in the garden. It matters because in this case, the comic elaboration of the plot can’t be dismissed as an absurd contrivance to hang set-piece arias on. In hope a penny or two will drop, I’d like to have a look at Beaumarchais, whose play was the source for Da Ponte’s libretto.

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