The Marriage of Figaro

new performance edition in English

by Sherwood Dudley and Miriam Ellis

St.-Quentin, The Chair Scene
(engraving in the first edition of the play, 1785)


Sherwood Dudley and Miriam Ellis have created a new English version of The Marriage of Figaro that can be tailored to the needs of each individual production and the tastes of the artistic directors.

The edition allows the opera to be performed in a completely traditional manner as Mozart wrote it. All of Da Ponte's Italian recitatives have been adapted into flowing English with significantly fewer changes in the original note values than any other English translation.

The most distinctive approach of the new edition, however, follows the lead of the first French production of the opera in 1793 (click here for historical information), in which the simple

recitatives with keyboard accompaniment were discarded and dialogue from the original play by Beaumarchais was restored. The playwright himself oversaw the amalgamation of his play with Mozart's opera. Substitution of the dialogue for the recitatives restores much of the play's anti-aristocratic sentiment (which the Viennese censors had required Da Ponte to delete), as well as Marcellina's feminist remarks.

An appendix to the edition provides a translation of the play's dialogue for each set number of the opera. Thus, if a director should choose to cut any musical number, a few lines of dialogue can be substituted to provide a seamless flow to the dramatic action. Because of the vast number of performance possibilities which this edition presents, the editors have called it The Flexible Figaro.

In March and April, 2001, Berkeley Opera performed this innovative edition of the popular work to high critical acclaim. The new version with spoken dialogue has also been produced in several university opera theaters across the country, including the University of California, Santa Cruz; Western Washington University; Indiana University of Pennsylvania; and the University of Texas at El Paso. Audiences have uniformly responded with great enthusiasm to this fresh approach to Mozart's comic masterpiece.

For further information on this edition, contact Sherwood Dudley,, or link to Miriam Ellis, ellisan