The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart)

Tchaikovsky Research

Le Nozze di Figaro, or The Marriage of Figaro (Свадьба Фигаро) is an opera buffa in 4 acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, for which Tchaikovsky made a Russian translation of the recitatives for a student production at the Moscow Conservatory in 1875 (TH 188 ; ČW 417).


The original Italian libretto for the opera was written by Lorenzo Da Ponte, after Pierre Beaumarchais' comedy La Folle Journée, ou Le Mariage de Figaro (1778).


Tchaikovsky translated Da Ponte's libretto into Russian and edited the recitatives in 1875 at the request of Nikolay Rubinstein, who wanted to stage a student performance of Mozart's opera at the Moscow Conservatory. In the process, Tchaikovsky introduced some cuts and changes to the recitatives, explaining that it was necessary to eliminate portions of the text that were unsuitable for young people, "besides which", he wrote, "in view of the awkwardness of the recitatives when rendered into the Russian language, I occasionally simplified and shortened unnecessarily lengthy passages. The recitativo secco is not music, but a conversation with music, and may be freely abridged whilst preserving the character of the original. On the other hand, in the entirely musical numbers I didn't even allow myself to alter the rhythm or metre in the translation" [1].


The first performance of the opera The Marriage of Figaro with the text in Tchaikovsky's translation took place on 5/17 May 1876 at the Moscow Conservatory, conducted by Nikolay Rubinstein.


When in 1884 Pyotr Jurgenson decided to publish the vocal-piano reduction of Le Nozze di Figaro in Tchaikovsky's translation — "only for the sake of your translation" [2] — Tchaikovsky made some minor changes to the text, and added a preface to the score (dated 31 May/12 June 1884) which was printed on the penultimate page of the arrangement.

The composer corrected the proofs for the edition himself, but was dissatisfied with the arrangement which Pyotr Jurgenson selected for the edition, and complained that: "It's a pity that I didn't think to make a new arrangement myself!" [3]. On 20 June/2 July he told his publisher: "I'm sorry for the delay in sending you the proofs of Figaro. I wanted to confine myself to correcting the text, but I couldn't resist going through the music..." [4].

The vocal-piano reduction, as translated and edited by Tchaikovsky, was published by Pyotr Jurgenson in 1884.


Tchaikovsky's manuscript score of Act I (except for the recitative after No. 8) is now preserved in the Russian National Museum of Music in Moscow (ф. 88, No. 158) [view].

Until recently the remainder of the autograph was considered lost. However, in August 2010, Marina Demina, a librarian at the Musik- och teaterbiblioteket (Music and Theatre Library of Sweden) in Stockholm, discovered Tchaikovsky's manuscript of Acts II, III and IV, which included the missing recitative from Act I (X:130:1) [view).

See the discussion page for an English translation of her account.

Related Works

Le nozze di Figaro, ossia la folle giornata (KV 492) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) was first produced in Vienna in 1786.

External Links

Notes and References

  1. Letter 2498 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 31 May/12 June 1884.
  2. Letter from Pyotr Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky, 3/15 May 1884 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  3. Letter 2504 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 12/24–13/25 June 1884.
  4. Letter 2507 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 20 June/2 July 1884.