Figaro and the Late Enlightenment

Introduction: Eighteenth-Century Europe

The Age of Reason?

    1. Reason attempts to emulate the explanatory success of mathematics and physics elsewhere.
    2. Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica ("Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy"), 1687.
    3. René Descartes, Discourse on the Method for Conducting One’s Reason Well and for Seeking the Truth in the Sciences, 1637. Thomas Hobbes, The Citizen, 1642.

The Unreasonable Past

The Encylopédie: an alphabetical description of the entirety of human knowledge collated, and written in part by Diderot and D’Alembert, with contributions by Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Rousseau.

British Social and Economic Conditions

    1. Great Britain survived two revolutions in the 17th century, including the execution of Charles I in 1649 and the peaceful "Glorious Revolution," in 1688.
    2. Daniel Defoe’s list: "1. The great, who live profusely. 2. The rich, who live plentifully. 3. The middle sort, who live well. 4. The working trades, who labour hard, but feel no want. 5. The country people, farmers etc., who fare indifferently. 6. The poor, who fare hard. 7. The miserable, that really pinch and suffer want."

French Social and Economic Conditions

    1. King Louis XIV and Cardinal Richelieu
    2. France’s three estates: the monarchy, the church, and everyone else, including the sans culottes, or "those without knee breeches," radicals from the poorer classes.

Revolutionary Opera? Beaumarchais, Figaro, Mozart, and da Ponte

Pierre Augustin de Beaumarchais, 1732-1799, Inventor and Playwright

Mozart Comes to Vienna

    1. Emperor Joseph II, enlightened, liberal ruler, and music lover.
    2. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, son of Leopold Mozart, a musician, born in 1756 in Salzburg.
    3. Life as a Prodigy
    4. Count Arco’s kick in the pants

Lorenzo da Ponte

Mozart Ends the Enlightenment with Opera Buffa

The Moment Before the Revolution

The Enlightened Despot?

Immanuel Kant, 1784: "… a head of state who favors religious enlightenment goes even further [than religious tolerance], for he realizes that there is no danger … in allowing his subjects to use reason publicly and to set before the world their thoughts concerning better formulations of his laws, even if this involves frank criticism of legislation currently in effect."

Opera buffa and Order: La finta giardiniera