August 2010

Overture to Le nozze di Figaro ("The Marriage of Figaro")

by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

I was shocked to see we hadn't discussed Mozart before now, so I guess it's about time.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (pronounced VULF-gahng AH-mah-DAY-us MOH-tzart) was born in 1756 in Salzburg, a city in a country that is now known as Austria. He started composing music when he was five years old. He died when he was only 35. But in his 30 years of writing music, he wrote over 40 symphonies, several operas, concertos, sonatas, the works. He is easily one of the most recognized composers in history. One of the things that makes him unusual is that he experienced a great deal of popularity while he was alive, as well as long after his death.

An "opera" is a story told through singing. It's very similar to what we would call a "musical" today, but a musical has speaking parts with the occasional song. A true opera has no speaking parts. All of the performance is sung, and the performers act out the story on stage while they sing.

The full title of the opera known as "The Marriage of Figaro" is "The Marriage of Figaro, or the Day of Madness". It was a comedy. Mozart was well-known for his sense of humor and frivolity, and you can often see it in his music. This opera was written in 1786 (when Mozart was 30 years old).

A play called The Barber of Seville was written in 1772, and featured a funny, clever character named Figaro. In 1784, a sequel was written about "The Marriage of Figaro", and this was the basis for Mozart's opera. The story features Figaro, about to be married, but having to thwart some enemies he made from the previous stories, due to his hijinks.

An "overture" is a piece of music played at the very beginning of an opera (or musical), before the curtain opens. It usually contains clips of all the music you will hear throughout the show, and kind of musically sums up the story you're about to see.

The piece you're about to listen to is the Overture (i.e., the piece played at the very beginning of an opera) from the opera entitled "The Marriage of Figaro" written by Mozart.

Jon's Introduction to This Piece:

I knew this piece when I was in High School, though I can't remember exactly when I was introduced to it. I really got to know this piece well when I was on my mission. I had purchased a tape of highlights from "The Marriage of Figaro", which, of course, featured the Overture at the very beginning. About half-way through my mission, I would commonly play this piece in the mornings as kind of a pick-me-up.

Most recently, I use a shortened version of this piece that acts as my alarm clock. I've uploaded the sound to my iPhone, and, on mornings when I have to get up to go to work, you will hear the first 30 seconds of the overture coming from my bedroom.


So here's the Overture. You'll need to turn your volume up, as it's pretty quiet (at the beginning...). It's just over four minutes long.

Overture to "The Marriage of Figaro" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (4:17)

For those interested, this recording features Sir Neville Marriner conducting the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

Jon's Interpretation:

Like last month, this piece just gets you charged up. It has so much energy. Unlike last month, this energy has more to do with happy or busy energy than it does with anger or passion.

As I mentioned, this is the piece that I most frequently start my day with. In my opinion, it's the best way to give yourself energy at the beginning of the day.

Extra Credit:

This piece is a very common opener for various concerts, and I know I've heard it used in movies, TV, and the like. I thought I'd just provide this simple extra credit assignment, though. This is the Canadian Brass Quintet performing the Overture. Enjoy listening to the skill of the tuba player, as he opens the piece.

Overture to "The Marriage of Figaro" performed by The Canadian Brass Quintet (4:05)