Discover The Marriage of Figaro

Mozart’s chaotic whirlwind of mistaken identities, twists and turns, is a comedy that takes place on a single crazy day – the wedding day of Figaro and Susanna.

From the first notes of the famous overture through to the Count’s lesson in marital fidelity, Mozart’s musical invention conveys a story in which the women are portrayed as wiser, shrewder and more civilised than the men.

The Marriage of Figaro Synopsis

Three years ago, Figaro helped Count Almaviva to marry Rosina, whom he stole from Dr Bartolo.

Act I

It is Susanna and Figaro’s wedding day. Susanna tells Figaro that the Count is propositioning her. Figaro is appalled that his master would dare seduce her and that he might reinstate the old tradition of droit de seigneur. Dr Bartolo and his old housemaid Marcellina arrive looking for the Count; they want to stop the wedding. Marcellina has a contract which states that Figaro must repay money that he owes her or marry her himself.

Cherubino, the page boy, has been dismissed for being caught alone with Barbarina, the gardener’s daughter. Susanna tries to hide him but is interrupted first by her music teacher Don Basilio, and then the Count who, in his fury, sends Cherubino off to join the army. Figaro, however, ensures that Cherubino remains close by. He has a plan.


Act II

The Countess is devastated that her husband is chasing other women, including her servant Susanna.

Figaro has a plan to save the day. He has sent the Count an anonymous letter to say that the Countess will be meeting a lover this evening. He asks Susanna to lure the Count into the garden after the wedding. Figaro will make Cherubino take Susanna’s place, dressed as a girl, so that the Count will be humiliated. The Countess agrees to the plan.

After receiving the anonymous letter, the Count returns to confront his wife, interrupting her just as she is dressing Cherubino as a girl for the evening’s assignation. Cherubino hides and then escapes by jumping out of the window. The Countess relents and explains the plan to her husband, saying that Figaro wrote the letter. Figaro denies everything.

Just at that moment, Antonio the gardener arrives, complaining that someone jumped from the window and squashed his precious hydrangeas. Figaro, thinking on his feet, immediately claims it was he who jumped out of the window. Marcellina, Bartolo and Don Basilio burst in brandishing Marcellina’s contract. It looks like the wedding of Figaro and Susanna is off, and the wedding of Figaro and Marcellina is on!


Interval of 20 minutes



The Countess has a new plan: she and Susanna will dress up as each other, meaning the Countess – rather than Cherubino – will be meeting the Count in disguise. They will write him a cryptic love letter, sealed with a pin and inscribed ‘return seal to sender’. Susanna must now proposition the Count, which she duly does.

The Count and Don Curzio, a lawyer, have decided that Marcellina’s contract should stop the wedding. Through his protestations, Figaro discovers that he is actually Bartolo and Marcellina’s long-lost son. Restored to his parents, Figaro can finally get married to Susanna. It will be a double wedding with Bartolo and Marcellina.

Then Antonio finds Cherubino, who has been hiding (dressed as a girl) at his house. Barbarina asks the Count for permission to her marry Cherubino. He is forced to agree to this.

All three weddings can finally take place. During the ceremony, Susanna passes the Count a love letter with her pin attached to it. The letter gives the details of where they are to meet later that evening.


Act IV The Garden

The wedding night. The scene is set for the Countess’s new plan, and Figaro and the Count are none the wiser.

Figaro and Marcellina find Barbarina in the garden. Figaro learns the Count has instructed Barbarina to fetch Susanna, whom the Count believes wrote him the love letter. Not knowing that this is all part of the Countess’s master plan, Figaro leaps to the conclusion that Susanna is unfaithful.

Susanna and the Countess swap clothes, making sure that Figaro overhears Susanna preparing to meet the Count (‘her lover’) in the garden.

The Countess (disguised as Susanna) enters the garden for her meeting with the Count, who, after rescuing her from Cherubino’s advances, is thrilled to see her. Figaro watches all this and seethes.

Susanna (dressed as the Countess) arrives. Halfway through telling her that her husband and his wife are together, Figaro realises that he’s actually talking to Susanna. He pretends to seduce ‘the Countess’. Susanna hits him. Figaro eventually tells her he had seen through the disguise, and when the Count comes back in, they play out a fake love scene to enrage their master. The Count calls everybody to witness his wife’s scandalous behaviour. It is not until the real Countess reveals herself that the Count realises what has happened and begs his wife’s forgiveness.

Frequently asked questions about The Marriage of Figaro

The plot takes place over just a single day – that of the wedding of servants Figaro and Susanna. However, the two servants are prevented from getting married by their philandering employer, Count Almaviva. His Countess works alongside Figaro and Susanna, successfully manipulating the Count and enabling them to finally marry. Full of twists and turns, mistaken identities and commentary on gender and fidelity, The Marriage of Figaro is bursting with plenty of glee and revelations.  

In 1786, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed The Marriage of Figaro, which consisted of four acts and was accompanied by an Italian libretto written by Lorenzo Da Ponte. With its sophisticated music and multi-layered characterisation, it’s a wonderful opera to get stuck into, as it encompasses universal themes of love, infidelity and forgiveness.  

A performance of The Marriage of Figaro is approximately 3 hours and 35 minutes long – including one interval.  

The opera’s libretto is originally based on the 1784 stage comedy, written by Pierre Beaumarchais. Of Mozart’s 600+ works, The Marriage of Figaro is said to be one of the funniest and one of the most moving musical comedies.  

Yes. If you’ve never been to the opera before, then The Marriage of Figaro is a great place to start. Typically, a comedy is not what people think of when it comes to operas. However, if you’re looking for revenge, disguise, love and trickery all rolled into one – then The Marriage of Figaro is a wonderful first option 

Italian. The native title is Le Nozze di Figaro. The opera also utilises strings, timpani, trumpets, bassoons and other instruments to bring the story to life – depending on the choice of the performers and conductor. Whimsical and entertaining, the music is grand and vast typical of the opera style.

The opera is split into four acts. However, it takes place over the span of just one day. The curtain rises on Figaro and his bride-to-be Susanna discussing that their master, the Count, plans to act upon his feudal right as a lord to have his way with a servant girl on her wedding night. From there, the drama unfolds.  

The Marriage of Figaro is set in Count Almaviva’s castle near Seville, Spain in the late 18th century. Each of the four acts of the opera takes place within the castle. Count Almaviva, his wife Countess Rosina, the Count’s valet Figaro and the Countess’s chambermaid Susanna, alongside the page attendant, Cherubino, all live in the castle.

The Marriage of Figaro was hugely controversial due to its subject matter at the time. The idea of servants revolting against their masters caused outrage among the aristocracy. The play was even banned in Vienna for a period, where Mozart was based at the time. Particularly as it was written in the years leading up to the French Revolution, The Marriage of Figaro shocked aristocrats as it focused on class tensions and privilege. To gain approval, political references had to be removed.  


As the opera explores a smart and witty approach to human relationships with brilliant music and an enthralling story line, it makes sense that the opera is still incredibly popular today. The Marriage of Figaro perfectly intertwines comedy, drama, poetry and music into a sensational work of art that shouldn’t be missed.  

Read the introductory guide to The Marriage of Figaro