Synopsis of The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart

The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart

Act I        

Setting: Count Almaviva’s chateau, near Seville

Figaro, valet of the Count Almaviva, is busy appraising his new room which his employer has assigned him and his betrothed, the fair Susanna. Susanna enlightens Figaro as to Almaviva’s amorous behavior, suspecting the Count might intend to exercise his droit du seigneur, and hopes that Figaro can outwit him.

Dr. Bartolo arrives with his former housekeeper, Marcellina.  Bartolo wants to take revenge on Figaro, who had helped the Count marry his ward Rosina, now the Countess. Marcellina has lent money to Figaro, who has promised to marry her, if he cannot repay it. When Marcellina runs into Susanna, the two rivals exchange insults.

The young page, Cherubino, implores Susanna to intercede on his behalf with the Countess, in hopes she can prevent his dismissal from service by the Count.  Upon the inopportune entrance of the Count, Cherubino quickly hides and overhears the Count courting Susanna.  When the music master Don Basilio appears, Cherubino moves and the Count conceals himself in Cherubino’s vacated hiding place. Dr. Basilio impugns Cherubino’s flirtations with Susanna and the Countess, enraging Almaviva who reveals himself. The Count becomes even more enraged when he discovers Cherubino and realizes that the boy has overheard his attempts to seduce Susanna.

Entering in the midst of this contretemps is Figaro, accompanied by the entire household of servants singing the Count’s praises for revoking the archaic tradition of droit du seigneur. Figaro and Susanna ask the Count to bless their marriage immediately; Almaviva agrees, having been publically trapped, but retaliates against Cherubino by ordering him to join the army and depart immediately for service.

Act II

In her bedroom, the Countess Rosina, mourns the loss of love in her life.

Encouraged by Figaro and Susanna, she agrees to set a trap for her husband: a note has been delivered to the Count inviting him to rendezvous with Susanna in the garden, but it will be Cherubino clothed as Susanna who awaits him.

As Susanna and the Countess are in the process of dressing Cherubino in the maid’s clothing, the Count knocks at the door; Cherubino is hastily shoved into a closet, which he frantically locks. Instantly distrustful, the Count seeks necessary tools to open the closet door.  Now Cherubino emerges and jumps out of the window into the garden below while Susanna hides in his place. Fortunately it is she the Count discovers, and Figaro enters to let all know that the preparations are complete for their marriage ceremony. The gardener Antonio rushes in with a paper Cherubino dropped during his escape.

Figaro identifies the document as Cherubino’s military orders, which he has retained, claiming it lacks a necessary seal to legitimize Cherubino’s army service. Scheming Dr. Bartolo, Marcellina, and Basilio now entrap Figaro by making a formal complaint against him for his failure to pay his debt.


Susanna encourages the Count in his flirtation, but he becomes suspicious of her actions.

Dr. Bartolo and Marcellina enlist the services of a lawyer to force Figaro to marry Marcellina in repayment of his debt. Figaro demurs that he cannot marry the housekeeper because his parents are absent and cannot give their consent. As proof of his childhood abandonment he shows her the birthmark on his arm.  Surprise!  Marcellina, overjoyed, recognizes Figaro as her long lost son. Dr. Bartolo, revealed as Figaro’s father, agrees to marry Marcellina that day in a double wedding ceremony with Figaro and Susanna.

Still intent on winning back her husband, the Countess and Susanna conspire that during the marriage celebration Susanna will pass a note to the Count proposing a rendezvous in the garden.

Cherubino, now dressed as a girl, appears with Barbarina, the daughter of Antonio the gardener. Antonio, who has found Cherubino’s hat, also arrives and unmasks the young man. The Count is furious to discover that Cherubino has disobeyed him and is still in the house. But his anger is punctured by Barbarina, who reveals that the Count, when he attempted to seduce her, promised her anything she wanted. What she wants now is to marry Cherubino. The Count is forced to agree. A march is heard and the household assembles for the wedding of Figaro and Susanna and Marcellina and Dr. Bartolo. While dancing with the Count, Susanna hands him the letter, sealed with a pin, confirming their meeting that evening.

Act  IV

Barbarina is frantically searching for the pin the Count has instructed her to return to Susanna.  When Figaro learns about the pin, he assumes that Susanna is planning to cuckold him and mock her marriage vows, so he hides in the garden to catch her.

Susanna and the Countess arrive and switch cloaks as part of their plan to fool the Count but are disrupted by the untimely arrival of Cherubino. Figaro feigns a seduction of the Countess (Susanna in the Countess’ clothing), but recognizes his wife’s voice and the two continue with their mock wooing.

Coming upon the scene and naturally mistaking Susanna for his wife, the Count is enraged. When the real Countess appears, he realizes his mistake and pleads for her forgiveness; she grants it, and both couples are reconciled.