Un moto di gioia and Deh vieni, non tardar from The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492
Wolfgang Amadè Mozart
February 16, 2020: Ying Fang, soprano; Ken Noda, piano
The Marriage of Figaro has often been described as the perfect comic opera because it combines engaging entertainment with exquisite musical construction. Mozart had complained to his father in 1783 of having read hundreds of plays, none suitable as a comic opera subject. In late 1785, after aborting several attempts to set existing Italian librettos, he eagerly turned to Beaumarchais’s play Le mariage de Figaro, ou La folle journée (The marriage of Figaro, or The crazy day) once it became clear that Lorenzo da Ponte would write him a libretto.
That Mozart composed at “breakneck speed” suggests an imminent production at Vienna’s Burgtheater that December, but the opera was not produced until May 1, 1786. It seems that censors needed time to ascertain that enough adjustment had been made to the politically subversive elements that had caused the play to be banned throughout the Hapsburg empire. Apparently, there were also delays owing to machinations by da Ponte’s rival Abbé Casti and Mozart’s rival Antonio Salieri, as well as problems with procuring dancers and a cast change for the Countess. In the end it was a success, to the point that after the third performance the emperor had to limit encores to keep the opera from lasting all night. Yet Figaro did not achieve its full measure of success until it was produced in Prague the following year, leading to the commission Don Giovanni.
Mozart had been writing with such zeal in part because knew that banned subject matter would attract an audience. Further, he could count on familiarity with the characters from Giovanni Paisiello’s greatly successful opera Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), based on the first of Beaumarchais’s trilogy—and, he was certain he could outdo his rival.
As in the play, all of the action takes place in one day, the marriage day of Figaro and Susanna, servants to Count and Countess Almaviva. The main strand of the plot concerns the Count’s flirtations with Susanna in connection with the droit du seigneur (his supposed right as a noble to have his way with her on her first night of marriage) and her clever foiling of his advances. The eventual humiliation of this member of the aristocracy by his “inferiors”—even in its toned down guise—greatly appealed to the rising middle-class audience. Woven into the web are myriad subplots involving Figaro and Marcellina (the Count’s housekeeper), Dr. Bartolo’s desire for revenge on Figaro, the Countess trying to regain her husband’s love, and the womanizing young page Cherubino.
For the Vienna revival in 1789, Mozart wrote two replacement arias specifically for Adriana Ferrarese del Bene, da Ponte’s mistress, who—unlike Nancy Storace, the original Susanna—had no comedic acting skills though she had a beautiful voice. In Act 2, Susanna dresses Cherubino as a girl to take her place and compromise the Count. The original “Venite, inginocchiatevi” requires a great deal of comedic acting, so Mozart instead substituted a “stand-and-sing” aria, “Un moto di gioia” (A feeling of joy) for Ferrarese, saying, “The little aria I have written for her I believe will please, if she is capable of singing it in an artless manner, which I very much doubt.” The strophic (several verses sung to the same music) aria is indeed very pleasing, and lovely to hear, since it is rarely used in modern performance.
The great “Deh vieni, non tardar” (Oh, come, do not delay) was Susanna’s other aria that Mozart had to replace (which he did with “Al desio” [At the desire], an elaborate rondo showcase). With that substitution, the 1789 audience missed out on one of his most masterful arias—happily included on this afternoon’s program and in most performances of the complete opera. The crucial situation in Act II when Susanna sings “Deh vieni” called for multiple layers of meaning, which Mozart admirably achieved. Susanna and the Countess are disguised as each other to entrap the Count. Figaro has found out about their scheme, but Susanna knows he knows and that he is hiding in the bushes. Thus, as she sings of her love, supposedly for the Count, she is actually singing seductively to Figaro, though he suspects otherwise and becomes jealous. Mozart acknowledges Susanna’s being disguised as the Countess by giving her music more usually suited to noble characters than servants, including preparing it with an extended accompagnato recitative. He also provides the perfect mix of tender longing and mischief.
© Jane Vial Jaffe
Texts and Translations
Un moto di gioia
Mi sento nel petto,
Che annunzia diletto
In mezzo il timor!
Speriam che in content
Non sempre é tiranno
Il fato ed amor.
—Lorenzo da Ponte
An emotion of joy
I feel in my breast,
which proclaims delight
in the midst of fear!
I hope that in contentment
distress will end;
not always tyrannical
are fate and love.
Giunse alfin il momento
che godrò senz’affanno
in braccio all’idol mio. Timide cure,
uscite dal mio petto,
a turbar non venite il mio diletto!
Oh, come par che all’amoroso foco
l’amenità del loco,
la terra e il ciel risponda,
come la notte i furti miei seconda!
At last the moment has come
when I can rejoice without worry
in my lover’s arms. Timid cares,
coming forth from my breast,
do not come to disturb my delight!
Oh, how it seems to the amorous fire,
the congeniality of this place,
that earth and heaven respond,
as the night furthers my designs!
Deh, vieni, non tardar, oh gioia bella,
vieni ove amore per goder t’appella,
finché non splende in ciel notturna face,
finché l’aria è ancor bruna e il mondo tace.
Qui mormora il ruscel, qui scherza l’aura,
che col dolce sussurro il cor ristaura,
qui ridono i fioretti e l’erba è fresca,
ai piaceri d’amor qui tutto adesca.
Vieni, ben mio, tra queste piante ascose,
ti vo’ la fronte incoronar di rose.
—Lorenzo da Ponte
Oh, come, do not delay, oh beautiful joy,
come where love calls you to enjoy,
until night’s torches do not shine in the sky,
while the air is still dark and the world quiet.
Here the stream murmurs, the light plays,
which with sweet whispers restores the heart,
here little flowers laugh and the grass is fresh,
here everything entices to love’s pleasures.
Come, my dear, hidden among these bushes,
I want to wreathe your brow with roses.