The marriage of figaro


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Rosina is held captive by her tyrannical guardian, confined behind closed doors in a room that she is never allowed to leave unescorted, jealously spied upon every minute, but that does not prevent her from hearing a voice serenading her from outside her balcony window. Instinct tells her that this is her man:

To the heart the arrow flew

From Lindoro, who drew the bow.

Dear Lindoro will be mine!

I’m determined, it shall be so!
Though the doctor will say no,

I have got a trick or two.

He will have to let me go

Or a battle will ensue.

Dear Lindoro will be mine!

I’m determined, it shall be so!

Prone to surrender,

Let love take over –

Yes, on the whole I am

A meek and gentle lamb.

I wait and watch the world go by.

BUT! If you cross my path,

If you provoke my wrath,

The cat will scratch, the fur will fly.

I have the wherewithal,

A hidden arsenal

Of secret weapons to apply,

Strategic traps to lay,

A pack of cards to play

Till in the end I have my way.
I tend to acquiesce,

To yield and follow,

To nod and answer yes

With lowered eyes,

BUT! If you collide with me,

The other side of me,

The sleeping tiger will arise.

I have the wherewithal,

A hidden arsenal

Of secret weapons to apply,

Strategic traps to lay,

A pack of cards to play

Till in the end I have my way.
After the trap is laid,

I have my way.

After the cards are played,

I have my way.

Slippery, slimy Don Basilio rhapsodizes on the effectiveness of slander, rumor and insinuation:

Subdued and gentle,

Incidental idle chatter,

Featherweight, of little matter,

Start with flimsy, distant whispers overheard.
Piano, piano, undercover,

Sotto voce, quiet rumor

Bolstered by insinuation,

Enters into circulation.

Rumor, first absurd and silly,

Gains momentum as it travels willy nilly.

Starting out in tiny ripples,

Soon the volume doubles, triples

And the murmur hits the firmament,

Expanding with each word.

From a subtle innuendo

To a gradual crescendo,

Like the galloping of horses,

On the course it gathers forces,

With a hammer stroke of thunder

Tearing giant oaks asunder,

Flashing, crashing, little wonder

That it freezes to the bone.

Bursting out and overflowing,

With a fury ever growing,

Building up to an explosion,

Like a storm upon the ocean,

Like a tempest or tornado,

Like a charging light brigade, oh

See the monster fully grown!
Lo, the poor unhappy victim,

After calumny has kicked him,

Mutilated, devastated,

Left to struggle on his own.

Irascible old Dr. Barolo rightly suspects that his ward Rosina is up to mischief:

In the role of your adviser,

I would urge you to be wiser

And adopt a better line.

Candy wrapped in writing paper?

Quill and ink to draw a flower?

Blistered finger? I daresay! With bleeding!

Smarter measures you’ll be needing

To deceive these eyes of mine.

Why the piece of paper gone?

Why the balcony at dawn?

What the hell is going on?

Secrets I cannot condone;

Fairy tales I have outgrown.

Foolish girl, now don’t deny it!

Oh, you’ll be gaining nothing by it;

I am hardly deaf and blind.

Speak, my angel, don’t be distant.

You can tell me … it’s entre nous.

You are silent? Still persistent?

Stubborn girl, I’m far from through.

Here’s what I intend to do.
Little lady, in the future

When the doctor goes a gadding,

Nosy servants I am adding

To survey and supervise.

Let a person leave or enter,

Put me through another wringer,

Even lift a little finger,

You will meet a dozen eyes.

Poor Rosina, oh so proper!

Broken hearted, desolated,

Will remain incarcerated

Till I wish it otherwise.

No, a doctor versed in science

You cannot make a laughing stock.

Though you dare display defiance,

I’m the one that can turn the lock.


Angelina, mockingly nick-named Cinderella by her two sparkling but spiteful sisters, sings a pensive song while doing her daily chores:

Searching far, he found three maids,

Each of a mind to be his own.
What to do?

Spurning beauty, spurning pride,

He in the end chose for his bride

Simple innocence, gentle modesty,

And a heart forever true.

Few but Cinderella would find anything nice to say about her stepfather, Don Magnifico, who is not only vain and foolish, but also cruel and overbearing, Ever hopeful despite having squandered the family fortune, he has an astonishing dream that clearly foretells prosperity just around the corner:

Superdonkey, like Apollo!

Further marvels are soon to follow . . .
But the dream’s interpretation . . .

What great omen has it sent us?

Ah, what clue, what explanation

For this message so momentous?

Festive chimes and bells are booming?

Better days ahead are looming.

Feathered wings? You and you!

Flying upward? Fortune blooming.

But the ass . . . who could it be?

Ah, the finger points to me!

Who’s the donkey? Plain as daylight

In a mirror of crystal glass:

Obviously I am the ass.

Dandini, the servant posing as prince, and vice-versa – the two of them come calling, with an important announcement:
Now winding up the affair that I debated

Before so devastated:

Home at last from travels, educated,

I find Papa capitulated

And to the graveyard already relegated.

He, expiring, stipulated

That to preserve the royal line I must get mated,

Or have all confiscated.

So my invitation to the ball is circulated.

If I find a tasty catch, my hook is baited;

For me that fish is fated.

I said it, I said it! Though it’s all so complicated . . .

DON MAGNIFICO: He even speaks like Dante!

Reporting back to Prince Ramiro, Dandini sizes up the two silly sisters --

on the quiet, and off the record,

Both are full of affectation,

Hard as nails, cold as ice.

They are lazy and malicious,

Hard as nails, cold as ice.

Silly, shallow, vain and vicious --

Otherwise they’re very nice.

Casting off disguise, Dandini delivers a stunning blow to Don Magnifico’s grandiose ambitions:

Not to stand on ceremony,

As a prince I’m but a phony.

And the true prince comes to town today,

So it’s time I throw the mask away.

With a sigh of resignation

I resume my old vocation.

Meet Dandini, groom and lackey!

Meet Dandini, prince of valets!

Master barber, just the man for you --

Have a haircut, shave and shampoo.

Confusion reigns in the Magnifico household:

Strain increases, tension heightens;

As we tug, we knot retightens.
Groping, grappling, still more baffling.

Each solution starts unraveling.

Raptly wrestling with this riddle,

In the middle, I’m entrapped.

True love leads to the quintessential happy ending:

Like a song, a dream, a winter’s

Tale, my sorrows all have flown.

The downtrodden women of Algeria have the privilege of listening daily to wholesome, time-honored words of wisdom:
Woman’s lot is to serve and suffer;

Ask not why, for God’s ordained it.

Learned men have well explained it:

Sorrow purifies the soul.

Mustafa reinforces the message, with his own egregious slant:

No absurd extreme is past her.

All would play the prima donna

And forget who’s lord and master.

How they strut,

They swagger, but

They do not sway the Bey.
Taken captive and sold into slavery, young Lindoro, a native-born Italian, can do little but sigh and suffer, while longing for his adored Isabella, his hopes of ever seeing her again reduced to almost, but not quite, zero:

The torment for a lover

To gaze across the sea!

One hope relieves the darkness:

Some day again I’ll be free.
Though captive and lonely

Mid languid desert breezes,

One comfort, one only,

Repairs the broken pieces.

I dream of my darling

Whose heart belongs to me.

Isabella, the Italian girl, is not as far away as Lindoro supposes. But having bravely set forth to rescue her beloved, she too has met with disaster. Her ship has capsized in a storm at sea. Cast ashore, friendless, penniless -- a stranger in a hostile land, she now finds herself surrounded by a menacing band of cutthroats. For a moment, but only a moment, the Italian girl is out of her depth:

With despair, dismay and panic,

For in truth I am much afraid . . . .
No more tears of self-indulgence!

Danger thrives because we fear it.

I have still a spark of spirit.

After all, they’re only men --

Not exactly a lion’s den.

A woman’s arsenal can topple nations

And I have weaponry for all occasions.

I overcome with just a smile,

A saucy glance, a sultry sigh!

Afric or Ottoman,

Greek, Turk or Tuscan,

There’s not a man

Can do what one of us can.

In one way all akin,

Jet black or pale of skin,

Be they but masculine

They need the feminine

And yield the right of way

When I go by.

Reunited with Isabella, Lindoro’s future lights up::

My darling I recover

And hope soars up again.
The suffering was worth it.

The savor of this moment

Is more than fair repayment

For weeks of trial and pain.

I find my Isabella

And all is right again.

The mighty Mustafa is finding the outspoken Italian girl a good deal more than he had bargained for:
You dance me round a circle!

But pushed too far, a Turk’ll

Stand up and show some spunk; he

Will not be made a monkey.

You think you’re so much smarter,

But these are my domains;

The fire of Turk and Tartar

Is burning in my veins.

After rounding up her fellow countrymen and firing up their patriotism, Isabella leads the rescue as they sail off for Italy:

Soon to see my native valley.

Blind to danger, love shall rally,

Rouse out hearts to win the day.


Count Ory, an unscrupulous, lusty young nobleman, willing to go to any lengths in amorous pursuit of the beautiful Countess, sequestered in the nearby castle, sworn to forego the company of men till her brother returns from the crusade. However, she might make an exception to an old, wise hermit, such as he now advertises himself to be. His first task is to win over the crowd:

My work has long been noted

For most remarkable results.
Abroad at times I wander

To seek, observe and ponder.

A servant dedicated

To exalted exploration,

My skills are celebrated

In the most exclusive cults.

Tired of canes and crutches?

You long for higher places?

You men would wed a duchess?

In such do I excel.

I concentrate on cases

That call for softer touches,

The way to sweet embraces,

And wedding bells as well.

You want to hold the aces?

All this and more I can do.

I light the light for you, and you.
Adviser and physician,

A man above suspicion,

I ply a secret art

Known to heal the lonely heart.

No overnight sensation,

No mad impersonator,

No peddler of salvation,

I offer what you need.

No shady operator,

My service comes guaranteed.

A cantankerous old professor has been sent by the Count’s overbearing father to track down his unpredictable son:

A bloody spy, a private eye!

Ah, what a slap in the face

For years of serving His Grace!

From my high plateau,

Forced to stoop so low!

I’m a scholar, a professor,

Accustomed to No, sir! and Yes, sir!

Now long of tooth and short of breath,

Pursuit of youth will be my death.

I huff and puff to stay apace,

But never quick enough for His Grace.

I stall, I stammer, to no avail;

He is the hammer and I’m the nail.

Because their husbands and brothers are off slaughtering heathen in the Middle East, the wives and sisters left behind are fair game to playboy predators like Count Ory. The Countess, however, receives a letter with unexpected news:
Dear sister, just a line:

The long crusade is finished!

In numbers undiminished

We sail from Palestine.

Through grimy dirt and mud

We fought the battle well.

With swords now red with blood,

We felled the infidel.

As God and fate direct us,

We head for native ground.

In two days time expect us

At home safe and sound.

Count Ory takes the news with characteristic aplomb:
Despite a change of weather,

The chase I shall renew.

To get my act together,

A day will have to do.

Though Count Ory has been exposed as the wily rascal that he is, the Countess

and her ladies, secluded inside the castle, are under the illusion that all is safe

and secure as they retire for the night:

Here life gently flows

Unruffled and sweet.
We breathe repose

In these quiet quarters,

Safe from the snare

Of man’s deceit.

Unknowingly, they are in for a rough night. A storm is brewing outside, while a chorus of nuns, whose hoarse voices are no doubt the result of exposure to the elements, plead for shelter:

O kind lady, hear us!

We’re wet, cold and weary,

Our way long and dreary,

The goal far from sight.

May heaven repay you!

Let warm pity sway you

And grant us, we pray you,

Shelter for the night.

The rugged nuns are inside the castle and ready for a party. In search of drink, Rambaud, Ory’s right-hand man, makes a late night search:
The atmosphere was eerie,

My corner dark and dreary,

In need of hibernation,

I settled down to doze.

But suddenly awaking,

A flash of inspiration!

Here was an undertaking

That brought me to my toes.

In search of lubrication

I start my exploration

In worthy emulation

Of valiant Count Ory.

Roaming around at random,

Ready to meet a phantom,

I enter first a chamber –

What amazing things I see!

No drink alas, alack! But

A zither, lute and sackbut,

No idle bric-a-brac, but

A spinning wheel and loom.

On to an inner sanctum

With scrolls that reach the ceiling,

The paneled shelves revealing

A cloistered reading room.

On to a banquet table,

I take a rest from roaming,

But despite a careful combing

I find no bill of fare.

Resuming cloak and dagger,

I turn a rusty handle,

Proceed by lighted candle

To stagger down a stair.

Surely a captive maiden

Is guarded by a giant,

But undeterred, defiant,

I continue to explore.

Down to the bottom level.

No sign of captive maiden;

Instead, a cellar laden

With barrels on the floor,

A dark and dismal dungeon

Inhabited by spiders –

A warning to outsiders

To leave while all is well.

The object of my mission!

This sort of ammunition

Puts an army in condition

To slay the infidel.

Here is the pride of nations!

Italian, French and Spanish,

There’s fuel enough to banish

Your cares to kingdom come.

In short, champagne and sherry,

The best of beer and brandy,

And forty barrels handy

Of fine old-fashioned rum.

I hesitate no longer.

Intent upon the booty,

I obey the call of duty

And make a bold attack.

The nations soon surrender;

The barrels yield their plenty,

And drink enough for twenty

I hoist upon my back.

I pick the finest to bring the boys.

A sudden noise!

I hold my breath.

The sound approaches,

Each minute stronger;

It’s suicidal to linger longer.

Off like an arrow!

Now life or death!

They cry out, a robber!

A robber! Arrest him!

My heart is pounding,

My feet are bounding.

I’m not inclined to look behind.
So now at our leisure

We open the treasure

I bring from down below.
All hail to the hearty!

Get set for a party

And let the liquid flow!

Poor, educationally challenged Nemorino! Hopelessly in love with dazzling Adina, who can actually read and write – a gift, it seems, that some are born with, some are not:

Though for pity I implore her,

I get nothing but disdain.
She has mastered reading and writing;

Long division for her is sugar candy.

But my schooling is so scanty

I can only sigh in vain.

Such a darling, yet so distant,

Brightly shining, a star far above me.

Though I long for her to love me,

Empty-handed I remain.

In the course of her reading, Adina comes across the intriguing story of Tristan and Isolda – several decades, be it noted, before it caught the attention of Richard Wagner. It sounds like just what Nemorino needs:

No ray of hope she offered,

Either in whole or in part.
Hope was around the corner.

A friendly, wise magician,

Noting his sad condition,

Went to his shelves to find

An elixir expressly designed

To ignite the lady’s frozen heart.”

What potential in the potion

For the awkward and the shy!

Jungle passion, raw emotion

From a bottle you can buy.

“A drop he’d barely swallowed

When sparks of lightning followed.

Behold! Isolda smolders!

The fire’s begun to blaze.

Isolda, cold no longer,

Yearns to enfold her lover.

Days of disdain are over,

Conquered by true devotion,

And for the amazing potion

Our hero sings daily rounds of praise.”

What potential in the potion

For the awkward and the shy!

Jungle passion, raw emotion

From a bottle you can buy.

Doctor Dulcamara, philanthropist, wonder-worker and super-salesman, has an astonishing array of potions and elixirs, satisfaction guaranteed:

A servant of humanity,

A friend who never fails you,

A man devoid of vanity.

I conquer all that ails you.
To further my philanthropy

I travel night and day.

So come and buy, come buy from me,

A bargain by the way.

Why even mention pay?

Not only offers aid for you

But kills off rats and roaches.

The claim corroborated,

Confirmed and validated.

I pass around the document

For each and all to see.

This bottle offers benefit;

By tasting now and then of it

A man well in his eighties

Who’s given up on ladies

Soon is the proud progenitor

Of a dozen on his knee.

And stronger than a stevedore

Of twenty two or three.

And here’s a soothing syrup

Designed to brace and cheer up.

Decrepit widows sipping it

Go skipping off with glee.

You women, spry though elderly,

Whose playful eye still twinkles

With my exclusive recipe

Erase unwanted wrinkles.

You gorgeous girls, I daresay,

Would salvage your complexion.

You lads would hear the fair say

“You suit me to perfection.”

Come, purchase youth and beauty

For the pittance that you pay --

Today is bargain day!
You owe yourself a duty,

A ticket of admittance

To eternal youth and beauty

For the pittance that you pay.

So overcome your malady;

Improve your personality,

Combat unkind reality.

Rejuvenate … reinvigorate …

When down with laryngitis, hepatitis

Or St. Vitus,

Not to mention hypertension,

Here’s the bottle that you need.

Perhaps you have a tendency

To alcohol dependency.

Your waist is getting bigger,

You have lost your vim and vigor,

Work and play are going poorly

And you’re balding prematurely,

The need is urgent surely

For a friend to intercede.

So purchase, purchase, one and all!

You toddlers from the nursery,

You codgers facing surgery,

You can’t afford delay.

Oh, yes! A bargain by the way.

You barely have to pay.

On the road I’ve weathered crisis,

Seldom resting, often walking.

You are asking what the price is?

How much money are we talking? …

I’ll explain: for this outstanding

Vintage from another era,

Throughout Europe I’m demanding

Never less than thirty lire.

But ’tis known to every yokel,

Native born, my roots are local.

Thus, although you’ll think me jesting,

Only three I’m now requesting.

So with each and every purchase –

Be it noted and recorded –

Every buyer goes rewarded

With a profit in the clear.

---For a friend so wise and gifted,

For a doctor fair and square,

We extend a grateful prayer.

---I’m inspired, indeed uplifted

When I breathe my native air.

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