Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ‘The Marriage of Figaro Overture’: High Spirited Beginnings

Good afternoon readers! I apologise for how long this next blog has taken to surface – I’ve been trying to find the right piece and the right time to write it seems that today is the day! Therefore, this blog is going to be looking into the wonderful overture from Mozart’s comic opera The Marriage of Figaro (1786). This overture is very lively and its persistent driven tempo throughout makes this an incredibly thrilling piece of music that has been one of the most played orchestral works since its premiere in 1786. Typically an overture showcases some famous themes/melodies from the opera itself, however this work is an exception as Mozart does not let us preview any of the thematic material from the opera. Instead, he writes an overture that captures the pace and the atmosphere of the opera. The opera is in the category of ‘opera buffa’ which translated means ‘comic opera’ and thus a fast-paced, enthusiastic atmosphere is created with this overture.

The overture starts with a fast and precise quaver pattern, that is so quiet you may not even be aware that the overture has started! In a comical style, Mozart leads this motif into a loud rumpus which involves the whole ensemble. This is perhaps the most famous theme as it is the basis for the overture. This burst of colourful energy sets the pace and frivolity of the work, which is what makes such an exciting piece to listen to. The piece is in the bright key of D major, and this aides with the luminous effect and atmosphere that Mozart was aiming to create. This exciting overture is full of both comical and romantic themes that are passed around different areas of the orchestra. For instance, the opening theme is headed by the bassoon, whereas later on the oboes also join in with this theme in a tutti section. The work is light, bouncy and conveys a wonderful celebration of music, comedy and emotion. The are some really interesting interludes from the bassoon and upper strings throughout the work, however, there is a wonderfully romantic oboe solo halfway through the piece, which is such a joyous turn of emotion within the music.

This overture is perhaps one of the most played in concert repertoire, but it is also one of the most technically demanding due to the sheer speed it should be played at to create the playful and comedic effect. There is a lot of fast passage-work in the upper strings, which makes the overture even more gripping. I find this work is a marvellous celebration of music and its surprising twists and turns make it all the more striking and memorable.

A wonderful celebration indeed! This is the perfect piece to write about when good news arises  – thank you to all my readers its down to you all that I keep writing about this wonderful genre of music. With a recent surge in new readers (and of course you marvellous returning readers) I’ve reached 3000 readers in over 25 different countries – I am completely overwhelmed! Thank you one and all – happy reading!


Recommended Recordings:

Barenboim conducting the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra