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Book Title: Die Hochzeit des Figaro|
The author of the book: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 917 KB
Edition: Philipp Reclam jun. Verlag GmbH
Date of issue: 1973
ISBN 13: 9783150026557
Read full description of the books Die Hochzeit des Figaro:“Mon cavalier, répondrez-vous à mes questions?”
At the culmination of this brilliant play, written just a few years before the beginning of the French Revolution, the all-powerful Comte de Almaviva challenges Figaro to answer his questions. Figaro, superbly, retorts:
“Eh! Qui pourrait m’en exempter, Monseigneur? Vous commandez à tout ici, hors à vous-même.”
That is the perfect definition of a tyrant: being in command of everything, except for himself. The play, which celebrates esprit and cunning intrigues to out-manoeuvre the abuse of privilege and power, is probably more well-known in its opera adaptation by Mozart. But the original by Beaumarchais is well worth reading in its own right, displaying a more acid political focus, which has proven to be relevant as a societal mirror over time, - leading to its being forbidden by the Vichy régime in the 1940s for example. A late honour - chapeau Beaumarchais!
I remember the first time I read it in a literature class at university. My professor had a predilection for humorous enlightenment thinkers, and Figaro was a character he loved to quote.
"Noblesse, fortune, un rang, des places, tout cela rend si fier! Qu'avez-vous fait pour tant de biens? Vous vous êtes donné la peine de naître, et rien de plus.”
When he read those famous lines from Figaro’s soliloquy, they stuck in students’ minds. All the arrogance and ridicule of a privileged position were highlighted in the hilarious idea of “Vous vous êtes donné la peine de naître, et rien de plus”.
Reading the play again, with a different focus now, the character of Figaro is still fascinating, but his companion, the intelligent young woman Suzanne, is even more striking. She is threatened by the institutionalised rape culture of the privileged class, fearing the Comte de Almaviva’s “droit de seigneur”, which “allows” him to claim the first night with the bride, should she marry Figaro. Not willing to submit to that cruel tradition, the plot develops around the various steps to be taken in order to outwit the power of the Comte. Add some confusion over identities, parental relationships, adultery and tricks, and you have the perfect 18th century play in a nutshell.
Just like Leontes in The Winter's Tale, Almaviva is rehabilitated in the end, reconciled with his wife, not opposing Figaro and Suzanne anymore:
“J’ai voulu ruser avec eux; ils m’ont traité comme un enfant!”
Oh, the luxury of a dictator who is able to detect his own childlike foolishness! The cheerful ending does not weaken the serious arguments raised in the play, however, as they are repeated in a final song, sung by different characters taking turns. The ideas of injustice and power abuse are accentuated and discussed, reflecting on the topics in the preceding action. Beaumarchais’ Suzanne sings out loudly what Shakespeare’s women hinted at implicitly:
“Qu’un mari sa foi trahisse;
Il s’en vante et chacun rit:
Que sa femme ait un caprice,
S’il l’accuse on la punit.
De cette absurde injustice
Faut-il dire le pourquoi?
Les plus forts ont fait la loi.”
The inequality between men and women plainly called “cette absurde injustice”, Figaro’s monologue denouncing the privileges of the nobility, a side discourse on the role of the child born out of wedlock: all these themes show the groundbreaking modernity of Beaumarchais’ political vision put on stage for wide reception. In pre-social media times, the theatre held an important role in spreading ideas. With Figaro praising wit (“l’esprit”) as the way to change an unjust, unequal society, he sets the task for centuries to come:
“Par le sort de la naissance,
L’un est roi, l’autre est berger:
Le hasard fit leur distance;
L’esprit seul peut tout changer.
De vingt rois que l’en encense,
Le trépas brise l’autel,
Et Voltaire est immortel.”
As Figaro closes with Voltaire, I will join him with the philosopher’s famous quote against intolerance:
Celebrating l’esprit of 18th century Enlightenment thinkers, light spreads! Fiat lux!
Read information about the authorWolfgang Amadeus Mozart full name Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over six hundred works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers.
Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood in Salzburg. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty; at seventeen he was engaged as a court musician in Salzburg, but grew restless and traveled in search of a better position, always composing abundantly. Visiting Vienna in 1781 he was dismissed from his Salzburg position and chose to stay in the capital, where over the rest of life he achieved fame but little financial security. The final years in Vienna yielded many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and the Requiem. The circumstances of his early death have been much mythologized. He was survived by his wife Constanze and two sons.
Mozart always learned voraciously from others, and developed a brilliance and maturity of style that encompassed the light and graceful along with the dark and passionate—the whole informed by a vision of humanity "redeemed through art, forgiven, and reconciled with nature and the absolute". His influence on all subsequent Western art music is profound. Beethoven wrote his own early compositions in the shadow of Mozart, of whom Joseph Haydn wrote that "posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years".
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