Aprite Un Po Quegli Occhi Analysis Essay

Translation into English by Giuseppe Cusmano (added 1998-03-18)Aprite un po’quegli occhi, Figaro's aria from Le Nozze di Figaro Tutto è disposto: Everything is set: L’ora dovrebbe esser vicina; the hour should be near; Io sento gente...è dessa! I can hear people... it is her! Non è alcun; It's nobody; Buia è la notte... The night is dark... Ed io comincio omai a fare and I am just beginning to practice Il scimunito mestiere di marito... the stupid work of being a husband... Ingrata! You ungrateful! Nel memento della mia cerimonia While remembering my ceremony Ei godeva leggendo: he was enjoying in reading: E nel vederlo io rideva And while I was seeing it I was laughing Di me senza saperlo. at me without knowing it. Oh Susanna! Susanna! Oh, Susanna! Susanna! Quanta pena mi costi! What a great suffering you cost me! Con quell’ingenua faccia, With your ingenuous face, Con quelgli occhi innocenti, with your innocent eyes, Chi creduto l’avria? Ah! who would imagine it? Ah, Che il fidarse a donna, è ognor follia. that it's foul to trust in a woman. Aprite un po’quegli occhi, Open your eyes, Uomini incauti e sciocchi, you incautious and stupid men Guardate queste femmine, Look at these women Guardate cosa son! Look what they are! Queste chiamate dee These you call goddesses Dagli ingannati sensi, with deceived senses, A cui tributa incensi to whom the weak reason La debole ragion. tributes incenses. Son streghe che incantano They are witches who enchant Per farci penar, only to make us pain, Sirene che cantano Sirens who sing Per farci affogar, to draw us, Civette che allettano Owls who attract Per trarci le piume, to take out our feathers Comete che brillano Comets who shine Per toglierci il lume. to take our light away, Son rose spinose they're thorny roses Son volpi vezzose; they're charming foxes Son orse benigne, they're benign bears, Colombe maligne, malign doves, Maestre d’inganni, masters in cheating Amiche d’affanni, friends of worries Che fingono, mentono, who pretend, lie, Amore non senton, don't feel any love, Non senton pietà, don't feel any pity, No, no, no, no no! no, no, no, no, no! Il resto no dico, I don't tell all the rest, Già ognuno lo sa. anybody knows that. Translated by Giuseppe Cusmano (gcusman@tin.it)
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Here's the thing about Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). It's the piece where, for the first time in the classical period, the whole score becomes the engine of the operatic drama, in which what's happening in the orchestra defines the emotional and expressive universe in which Mozart and Da Ponte's characters, and the audience, will spend the next few hours of their lives.
That's signalled even by the overture. Audiences in Vienna's Burgtheater for the opera's first performances in 1786 would have been taken unawares by the way the music starts, a palpitating pianissimo tremor that suddenly explodes into a comic fanfare. The music of the overture never returns, but it sets the febrile atmosphere for the "folle journée" - the "crazy day", to come.
Figaro, you see, is based on a play by Beaumarchais that had been banned by the French monarchy and which only had its premiere in 1784. It seems like a risky gesture to turn the piece into an opera in the no-less censorious atmosphere of Joseph II's Vienna, where the play had again been banned. Mozart and Da Ponte managed to get their version past the censor, and although the aristocrats get their comeuppance in Figaro, what Wolfgang and Lorenzo are really interested in is the human drama that results from the shenanigans of the day of Figaro's wedding. The emancipated atmosphere of the story allows the five main roles – Figaro, Susanna, the Count and Countess, and Cherubino – to be fully-rounded characters, flesh and blood creations whose real emotional turmoil is set into relief by the cast of more-or-less stock opera buffo characters who surround them, the pompous Bartolo, the preening Basilio, the wronged spinster Marcellina.

And each of them is revealed in the music Mozart writes for them. Figaro is given his most moving and simultaneously most humiliating music in his Act IV aria, Aprite un po' quegli occhi in which the insinuating horn calls signal that he thinks he is being cuckolded; the Count's vengeful fury is given full splenetic vent at the start of Act III, Hai già vinta la causa!; and Cherubino's uncontrollable eroticism is made into music in his two arias, Non so più cosa son and Voi che sapete. But it's the women in Figaro for whom Mozart reserves his most affecting music, the Countess's aria at the start of the second act, the first time we meet her, Porgi, amor which is simultaneously refined, poised, and tragic; and all of Susanna's music, especially her fourth act aria, Deh vieni.

Even more than those solo numbers, though, it's the ensemble music in Figaro that creates a new kind of operatic discourse. Most famously, there's the finale of Act II, one of the longest uninterrupted spans of music that Mozart ever wrote, seamlessly building the tension, the dramatic confusion, and the number of characters on stage, for 20 minutes. The Act III sextet – apparently Mozart's favourite part of the opera – the Act I trio, all are feats of imagination that fuse the structures of instrumental music with the brilliantly timed character comedy of the drama. And in the opera's final moments, there's the Count's heart-rending plea for forgiveness and the Countess's acquiescence. It's music whose power makes you believe that yes, the drama is resolved, and everyone on stage really means what they say. But then comes the fizzing volcano of an ensemble (from 8'30'' of this clip) that ends the piece, music that connects with the atmosphere of the overture, and seems to say that this whole cycle of transgression and forgiveness, infidelity and commitment, will keep on perpetuating itself in the Count's estate, as it will everywhere else, forever…


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