Switch to mobile view

About the program

“The musical performance on its own terms was extraordinary. Over the last 30 years under Mr Fischer, the Budapest Festival Orchestra has become one of the most admired ensembles on the international scene, as was demonstrated on Sunday by this supple, glowing and transparent performance of Figaro,” wrote critic for The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini, about the BFO’s 2013 New York performance. He believed this Figaro, like Don Giovanni two years earlier, was “a highlight … of the opera season in New York.”
“A completely new play” is how Lorenzo Da Ponte characterised his work in the foreword to the libretto of Le Nozze di Figaro published in 1786 in Vienna. Yet we have relatively few details about the birth of the work that broke with the contemporary traditions of opera buffa. It transpires from Da Ponte’s recollections that it was Mozart who saw a possible theme for an opera in Beaumarchais’s comedy premiered eight years before and banned in several countries across Europe. The reliability of Da Ponte’s recollection in this case is confirmed by that the fact that the composer – who never worked without an order – did not write this piece following a request. The banning and the empire’s suspicion were very understandable: the story of the piece was found to be inflammatory according to the standards of the period: the servant prevents the count from exercising his presentation rights the first night, and ridicules him. It is no coincidence that posterity can identify the uproar of the rising and thundering French Revolution from the theme and action of the piece. Beaumarchais’s comedy was still banned in Vienna when Mozart and Da Ponte started to work. Da Ponte recalled he was the one to propose that they finish the work and await the right moment to offer the finished work to the theatre management and to the emperor himself. As far as we can reconstruct the timeline, the music for Figaro was composed from the middle of October to late November 1785. In his book about Mozart, Volkmar Braunbehrens found that the emperor agreed because he wanted to send a message to the aristocracy through Mozart and Da Ponte’s work. Whatever the cause, after the premiere in the Viennese Hofoper on 1 May 1786, Figaro was performed eight times in the same year by the Hofoper (of course, with several elements “tamed” in comparison to Beaumarchais’s piece), presenting the public with probably the most perfect masterpiece of opera literature.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro


Iván Fischer


Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Figaro
Sylvia Schwartz, Susanna
Markus Werba, Il Conte di Almaviva
Miah Persson, La Contessa di Almaviva
Rachel Frenkel, Cherubino
Andrew Shore, Bartolo
Marie McLaughlin, Marcellina
Rodolphe Briand, Basilio/Don Curzio
Filippo Fontana, Antonio
Norma Nahoun, Barbarina