Law and Opera pp 195-208 | Cite as

Mozart and the Concept of Equality

  • Mariano LongoEmail author


The paper attempts a comparison between two librettos set to music by Wolfgang Amedeus Mozart. The first, Idomeneo Re di Creta, was written by Giambattista Varesco and performed for the first time in 1780. It is an opera seria, which adopts tropes and common-places of the genre. Once Idomeneo comes back to his island, he is able to kill a monster menacing his people, thus restoring order and peace. The social structure, as emerging from the libretto, is still linked to the Ancient Regime model: society is unequal and order and justice are the output of the legitimate superiority of the sovereign.

In Le nozze di Figaro, things change utterly. Written by Da Ponte after Le marriage de Figaro by Pierre-August de Beaumarchais, the libretto is imbued with the new spirit of the Enlightenment. By making reference to the libretto, I would like to show how juridical equality fosters complexity: indeed, the plot is triggered by the fact that the Count of Almaviva, Figaro’s master, has abolished the so-called jus prime noctis. This means that both Figaro and the Count are equal as to their desire to lie with Susanna (the wife-to-be of Figaro). Thus, the abolishment of a privilege produces the intricate plot of the opera, which is triggered by the Count’s necessity to seduce Susanna and to conceal his love deeds to both his wife and Figaro.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of SalentoLecceItaly

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