WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART Marriage Of Figaro aria
We return to the musical genius of Mozart and an aria from the opera, Marriage Of Figaro. Bridget Mermikides arranges this exquisitely beautiful vocal duet for solo classical guitar.
You’ve had Mendelssohn’s Wedding March so here’s Bridget’s seasonal take on another great piece of betrothal music, from The Master.
In this latest instalment of our classical series we tackle a work by the musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791). It’s hard to communicate in a short piece of text the extent of Mozart’s brilliance and phenomenal output, but to give you an idea, one might consider that by the time he composed the opera Marriage Of Figaro (from which this arrangement is taken), he was barely 30 and had already composed 38 symphonies, 37 instrumental concerti, 16 other operas as well as hundreds of others, of outstanding technical and expressive quality.
The Marriage Of Figaro composed in 1786 (for which, incidentally, he was paid 450 florins – roughly approximated to £3,000 in today’s money – or one hour of Beyonce’s salary) is generally considered to be one of the most seminal and influential operas in the entire genre. Written to an Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte it contains a number of pieces that have endured in their own right including the arias Aprite Un Po’ Quegli Occhi, Hai Già Vinta La Causa!, Non So Più Cosa Son, Voi Che Sapete and (arranged here) the absolutely stunning duet Sull’aria Che Soave
Zeffiretto (On the breeze...What a gentle little Zephyr). This duet (or duettino – a short duet) appears in Act III and is for two sopranos (the characters Countess Almaviva and Susanna) in which the Countess hatches a plot with her maid Susanna to expose her husband’s infidelity. The transcendent beauty of the melody thus has a darker ironic undertone – lost to all unfamiliar with the language or dramatic context. Its dramatic function with the opera aside, the aria’s incredibly engaging melody as well as how the two voices interweave and merge through the course of the short work has an irresistibly timeless quality with an effect of heavenly joy. For this reason it is often associated with transcendence in screen, most famously perhaps in the 1994 seven-Oscar nominated film The Shawshank Redemption when the lead character Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins) – who has been wrongfully accused and imprisoned for murdering his wife and her lover in a fit of jealous rage – in an uncharacteristic moment of defiance uses the PA loudspeakers to play the aria over the prison grounds. Knowing that he will be punished severely for the act, Andy (and the prison community) is seen snatching a few precious and joyous moments of feeling truly free, basking in Mozart’s transcendent work, the prison walls but for a moment fall away. Andy’s fellow prisoner and friend Red (played of course by Morgan Freeman) narrates: “I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about... I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful it can’t be expressed in words, and it makes your heart ache because of it” is again ironic (and lost to the audience – and perhaps film makers) given the nature of Andy’s accused crime.
Originally scored for oboe, bassoon and strings accompanying the two ‘conspiring’ interwoven melodic lines; the challenge of arranging this wonderful work for solo guitar seems steep. However, the power of Mozart’s melodic and harmonic writing transcends instrumentation and with the help of
Bb transposing the original key of to C, this has created a very playable arrangement, which resonates nicely on the guitar.
THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO IS CONSIDERED AS ONE OF THE MOST SEMINAL AND INFLUENTIAL OPERAS IN THE ENTIRE GENRE
Mozart: one of classical music’s great geniuses