John Wells, who translated Beaumarchais' plays, introduces the opera with a high-spirited account of the action-packed career of the author, in many respects the prototype of Figaro himself. Basil Deane explores the score: he shows that Mozart's characters are illuminated here not so much in soliloquies but in their reactions to each other in a series of compromising situations. Composer Stephen Oliver discusses how the comedy exists not just in the words but, essentially, in the music. The full Italian text is given, with a note on the order of scenes in Act Three and the alternative passages Mozart wrote for da Ponte's mistress when she sang Susanna at the 1789 revival. The classic translation of E.J. Dent is an excellent way to get to know both the twists and turns of the plot and the stylish wit of da Ponte's innuendos.
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