Opera for Beginners: Introduction to The Marriage of Figaro, Part 2/2

Congrats! In our previous post about the Marriage of Figaro you learned: 

1. What the Heck Is Going On?
2. Before the Curtain Is Up       

Now we'll explore:

3. The Coolest Rap About Revenge             
4. Infidelity? Rosina Wants Her Hubby Back! 
5. Madness! Six Singing Simultaneously

For this second and last part of our blog post about The Marriage of Figaro, we'll explore Don Bartolo's aria about revenge where he raps; Rosina with a recitative and aria telling about her plan, pain, love, and hope; and we'll close with a piece for 6 voices singing simultaneously!

Before going further, let's review that in general, opera’s music can be divided into 2 different types: aria and recitative. An aria is a piece for one voice. A recitative is when the singing resembles ordinary speech. Ready? Here we go!

3. The Coolest Rap About Revenge

Revenge is hurting someone in return for what they'd made you suffer, right? Many have sung about it. For example, Alanis Morissette sings, "Every time I scratch my nails down someone else's back, I hope you feel it." Or Lily Allen with, "Now you're calling me up on the phone so you can have a little whine and a moan, and it's only because you're feeling alone / At first when I see you cry, it makes me smile." So if they sing about it, why can't our Bartolo too?

As we mentioned before, Dr. Bartolo wants revenge, just like Alanis Morisette and Lily. Since Rosina chose Count Almaviva over him, thanks to Figaro's help, he wants Figaro to be miserable and not marry Susanna; instead, to pay his debt by marrying Marcellina. On top of this, not will he enjoy singing about revenge, but he will even rap! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, rap is very old, hundreds of years old. Take a look at the lyrics in English:

     Revenge, yes, revenge
     Is a pleasure meant for the intelligent;
     To forget insults and outrages
     Is always low and base.
     With astuteness and acuteness,
     With judgment and discernment,
     I can do it ... The case is serious;
     But, believe me, I'll bring it off.
     If I have to search the whole legal code,
     If I have to read through the whole statute book,
     With a quibble or a paraphrase
     I'll find some obstacles.
     All Seville knows Dr. Bartolo:
     That rascal Figaro will lose the day!

La Vendetta is an aria by Dr. Bartolo in Act 1 Scene 3.When he's singing it, watch out for the changes in tone. You'll easily notice the music’s lack of softness, at times even aggressive. Then, close to the end, we get to a part where Bartolo raps. Yes, the very origins of today’s rap. Try it! (check the listening guide below) Here is the text for you to try to rap it yourself, “If I have to search the whole legal code, If I have to read through the whole statute book, with a quibble or a paraphrase I'll find some obstacles.” 

Here's your listening guide:
1. Watch how Marcellina and Bartolo talk about their plan 19:13-20:30
2. Follow Dr. Bartolo singing about revenge with subtitles in English 20:31-23:56
3. Listen to the rap section 22:25-22:45

So many versions to enjoy.  We're sharing another we love! Bartolo and Marcellina's scene begins at 00:16:30. (Marcellina is just wonderful!)

4. Infidelity? Rosina wants her hubby back!

Act 3          
Count Almaviva has been fooling around. I know it. You know it. Rosina, his wife, knows it. To understand what she thinks and feels, Mozart has given us a beautiful aria (piece for one voice) where Rosina goes from hopelessness, to pity, to mighty hope!

Countess Almaviva has a plan to get her husband back. You might wonder, why?! Remember that during that time, a woman in the 1700s with limited options and married into nobility, there really was no divorce or splitting. Still, let's say she has three options: leave, confront him, or stick it out. But she has a fourth one, to get him back. 

Dove Sono begins with a recitative (singing resembling ordinary speech). She sings about her plan: Count Almaviva will think he's meeting Susanna in the garden at night. The plan that Rosina and Susanna will change clothes and bust him! After, she begins an aria with so much deepness and emotion, that there are no words to describe it. It must be listened to.

The Recitative. It begins (02:10:03) with a nervous and anxious Countess, waiting for Susanna and wondering if the plan is the right thing to do. 
     Still, Susanna does not come! 
     I am anxious to know how 
     the Count received the proposal. 

Listen to how the music changes when she talks about her jealous husband (02:10:35).
     The plan seems to me a little rash, 
     with a husband so forceful and jealous! 

Then she seems hopeful about the plan (02:10:46).
     But what's the harm in it?
     Changing my clothes for those of Susanna, 
     and she for mine, under cover of night. 

Suddenly, at 02:11:10, she's angry when talking about how cruel her husband has been.
     Heavens! To what humble and dangerous state 
     I am reduced by a cruel husband, 
     who, after having with an unheard-of combination 
     of infidelity, jealousy and disdain 

Here, she goes through three different emotions in just a few seconds: from love to despair to anger (02:11:34-02:11:47).
     first loved me, then neglected me and finally deceived me 

She closes the recitative expressing how unfortunate and painful her situation is having had to ask a servant for help (02:11:47-02:12:00). 
     now forces me to seek the help of a servant! 

The Aria. Here's an extraordinary interpretation of this aria (piece for one voice). There's sadness, nostalgia. She's wondering what happened to her marriage, the love, the vows. Check how she goes from this very dark place to feeling hope and saying, I can do this! We can get together again! This begins at 02:56. It has subtitles so it's easy to follow. Here are the lyrics so you can take a look before watching the video.

Where are the golden moments
of tranquillity and pleasure;
what became of the oaths
of that deceitful tongue?
Why did not, when my life
changed into tears and pain,
the memory of that joy
disappear from my breast?
Where are the golden moments 
Ah! If then my constancy 
still loves through its sorrow, 
the hope yet remains 
of changing that ungrateful heart!

5. Madness is when six sing simultaneously!

Act 3          
When Marcellina realizes Figaro is her son, whom just a few moments ago she wanted to marry, chaos and clarity will materialize as the sextet Riconosci in questo amplesso, Recognize in this embrace. Yes, six people singing together. If you’re thinking this sounds complicated, well, it truly is.  We have six people singing together, at the same time, but each one their own part: Marcellina about being the mother; Bartolo about being the father; Figaro about his parents; Susanna, Count Almaviva,  and Don Curzio participate too.  This sextet closes Act 3 and leaves a grand finale feeling. We recommend you to try and hear all the different voices that come through. Here are two different videos. In one of them, you can follow the story with the subtitles' help. The second one doesn’t include subtitles but it’s one of our favorite versions because it’s really funny and well done. If you'd like to read more about this sextet, we suggest you check this.


We hope you've learned something during our journey together. Gabriel Katz, thanks for your enthusiasm and contribution. This opera project would not have come true without you! 

Our next opera will be a political thriller! Yes, Puccini has given us a story with diva singer Tosca, her lover, a corrupt chief of police, and you know what? They all die in the end! Oh my goodness! Tosca is coming, ladies and gentlemen. Don't miss it! 

Tot de volgende keer!


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