Aprite un po’ quegli occhi, a setting by Lorenzo Da Ponte , was composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1786 (Eb Major) and premiered the same year. This aria is part of Act IV of the opera, Le Nozze di Figaro.
Mozart collaborated with Lorenzo da Ponte for the first time in 1986 with Le Nozze di Figaro after Da Ponte quarreled with his previous collaborator, Antonio Salieri, imperial court composer. If their opera, premiered in Vienna had little success due to the efforts of the anti-Mozart Italian clique (we are at the heat of the antagonism between Italian musicians and poets living in Vienna), it met huge success in Prague and became a reference of opera buffa in Europe. Mozart admired Beaumarchais’ work and this opera, a few years before the French Revolution, through comedy, underlines the tensions, injustices and cruelties of the old societal Regime.
The first scene of act I opens on Figaro, preparing his future marital room for him and his beloved, Suzanna. Suzanna does not want to accept this specific room as it is too close from the room of the count, their master. She worries it will make it easier for the count to court her and get his ways. Figaro, furious to learn what his master is about, swears to get revenge.
Bartholo and Marceline enter. Marceline is trying to convince Bartholo of forcing Figaro to honor an old promise: marrying her. He accepts to help her as he wants revenge on Figaro.
In another scene, Cherubino enters and tells Suzanna the count surprised him and Barbarina alone and asked him to leave for good. He steals a ribbon of the countess, his godmother, that Suzanna, her maid, had in her possession. The count appears to court Suzanna and Cherubino only has time to hide under a chair. As Basilio comes in, the count must also hide and he hides behind the same chair as Cherubino, forcing Cherubino to hide on the chair that Suzanna covers with a dress. As Basilio starts gossiping, the count, furiously, reveals his presence, then discovers the hidden Cherubino. Furious, he bans him again and Cherubino is saved by the arrival of Figaro and a crowd of peasants who have come to thank their master for having abolished the ‘Droit du Seigneur” on their land (the “right of the first night”). Figaro asks the count for a blessing to bring the future spouses happiness. The count delays it and accepts to forgive Cherubino on the condition he leaves immediately for the army. Figaro asks to speak to Cherubino before he leaves.
Act II opens on the countess expressing how much she suffers of her husband’s infidelity. Suzanna enters with Cherubino who starts singing a senerade to the countess he has composed especially for her. The two women decide to disguise him as a woman so he can attend the wedding without being recognized. The count arrives to confront his wife. He has received a letter letting him know she has accepted a meeting with a secret lover. Cherubino hides in the closet but he makes noise and the count asks the countess to open the closet. The countess refuses and he orders her to follow him after having looked the room to find tools to break the door. Susanna, as they go, comes out of her hiding place and frees Cherubino. She takes his place and Cherubino runs away by the window. As the count and countess come back, the count forces the closet and discovers Suzanna. Suzanna makes fun of the count much to his astonishment. Figaro arrives, followed by Antonio the gardener. Antonio says he is bringing back a paper lost by the man who has jumped through the window. Figaro says, he is the one who just jumped but the count is not completely convinced. As they are about to head to the wedding Marceline, Bartholo and Basilio appears showing the previous marital contract between Figaro and Marcelline. The count delays the ceremony to examine the situation.
Act III opens on the Count asking Suzanna to join him in the garden later. Suzanna tells him she will accept and the count is satisfied. As she leaves the room, she lets Figaro know they will be able to marry now. The Count overhears and understands he has been fooled and expresses his fury in his aria: Hai già vinta la causa. He takes revenge on Figaro by deciding he must marry Marcellina but Figaro argues he cannot marry without the consent of his parents he has never known. They discover he is the illegitimate son of Marcellina and Bartolo and everything is well. Suzanna arrives with money to pay off Figaro’s debt. She sees him embracing Marcellina and she mistakenly thinks he now prefers her. Everything is soon explained and they all rejoice together. All leave and we find Cherubino being disguised as a girl by Barbarina. In the next scene, the countess informed by Suzanna of the last events composes a love letter to send to the count asking him to meet Suzanna in the evening under the pin trees. A chorus of peasants with Cherubino among them arrives to praise the Countess. The count arrives and soon discovers Cherubino among them. Furious from this encounter he is left embarrassed when Barbarina asks him to authorize her to marry Cherubino. The act closes on a double wedding. During the celebration, the count receives the letter inviting him to meet Susanna alone in the evening. It has a pin attached to it that he must send back to indicate he agrees.
Act IV opens of Barbarina. The count has missioned her to give the pin back to Susanna. Regrettably, Barbarina has lost the pin and desperately tries to find it again. She tells Figaro about the secret meeting by mistake. Figaro feels betrayed, infuriated and Marcellina tries to calm him down. Figaro asks Bartolo and Basilio to help him get revenge. Basilio finds Figaro foolish and frivolous and leave him to hide alone behind a bush. Figaro expresses how bitter and sad feels in his aria: Aprite un po’ quegli occhi.