A short history of Mozart's Marriage of Figaro

Le nozze di Figaro, ossia la folle giornata (The Marriage [literally 'Wedding'] of Figaro or the Day of Madness), K. 492, is an opera buffa (comic opera) composed in 1786 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with Italian libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, based on a stage comedy by Pierre-Augustin Beaumarchais, La folle journé ou Le mariage de Figaro (1784). Beaumarchais' play was at first banned in Vienna because it satirized the nobility, thus encourageing revolutionary tendencies. However the opera became one of Mozart's most successful. It is now one of the most performed opras and well suited to a 'chamber' performance. The overture is often played as a concert piece, though it does not use themes from the opera's arias.

Le nozze di Fiagaro was the first of several collaborations between Mozart and da Ponte. They also created Don Giovanni and Cosi fan tutte. Mozart gave a copy of Beaumarchais's play to da Ponte, who turned it into a libretto in 6 weeks, translating the story into Italian poetry and expunging political references. The libretto was approved by Emperor Joseph II, before music was written by Mozart. Figaro premiered at the Burgtheater, Vienna, on 1 May 1786 to great applause, though it was allowed a run of only nine performances. The Emperor decreed a limit to the number of encores, for the audience was demanding so many that the opera was commonly running far too long.

A phrase from Figaro, "Cosi fan tutte le belle", was later reused in the overture to Così fan tutte. The music of Figaro's Act I finale is now the regimental slow march of the Coldstream Guards of the British Army and is quoted in the second act of Mozart's Don Giovanni. Mozart 'recycled' the music of the Agnus Dei of his "Krönungsmesse" K317 ('Coronation Mass'), for the Countess's aria. The same motif was used in his early bassoon concerto.