Figaro

Figaro is the hero of the opera. He's valet to the Count of Almaviva. A valet is a trusted servant, somebody who shaves his master, looks after his clothes, knows his master's secrets and runs his errands.

In Mozart's day a servant like Figaro would be the funny man, he'd crack jokes, sing comic songs and the real plot would be about his master. But in this show Figaro is the hero. It's his happiness we're interested in, not the Count's, and it's Figaro's name in the title. (Fortunately he keeps his jokes and tunes).

Figaro is sung by a bass, the deepest male voice.

Susanna

Susanna is the Countess's ladies maid and, like Figaro, a trusted member of the household. She and Figaro intend to get married, but first they have to deal with the Count. He fancies Susanna, and does everything he can to stop their wedding.

Fortunately, Susanna, like other operatic servant girls, can look after herself. She is supposed to be a soubrette, that is a comic servant with a light soprano voice, but, by the last act, she's singing serious soprano music. It makes you wonder who the heroine of this show is? Susanna or her mistress?

Countess Almaviva

The Countess is the Count's wife. Her name is Rosina – only the Count can call her that, the servants refer to her as madam' or 'my lady'.

She loves her husband and is distressed by his neglect but, as a woman of spirit, she's determined to save her marriage. Her most trusted friend is the maid, Susanna, and the two women join forces to bring the Count into line.

As you listen to the clips below you'll hear how the Countess can switch from regret to a brisk determination to put things right. She is a soprano (the highest female voice) and a very dramatic one.

Count Almaviva

The Count is a rich young man with nothing to do. He's been married a couple of years and is fed up, he wants excitement, love affairs, and he's started to chase all the pretty girls on his estate.

As the lord of the manor, the Count is a dangerous character. He can order people about and do, more or less, what he wants. But he's not evil, just thoughtless and spoilt.

He's sung by a baritone – that's not quite as deep as a bass – and his music moves easily from gentlemanly politeness (when he's behaving himself) to loud male anger, when people annoy him.

Cherubino

Cherubino is the Count's page. He has just hit adolescence and fancies himself in love with every woman he meets – including the Countess. (He also has a genius for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.) As his voice hasn't broken, he's always played by a female singer, a mezzo soprano.

The word 'mezzo' literally means 'half'. Mezzos are in the middle of the female range: they're lower than sopranos, but not as low as contraltos (the lowest female voice). Their voices have a bright, ringing quality – very suitable for the young male roles they often play.

Don Basilio

Don Basilio is on the Count's pay roll as a music teacher. He's a creep and drifts round the place, gossiping and getting people into trouble. It's a tiny part, but great fun to play – and audiences often end up rather liking him...

Marcellina

Marcellina is a middle aged lady, housekeeper to Don Bartolo, who is owed money by Figaro. She turns up at the Count's stately home, with Figaro's IOU in her pocket, and out for trouble...

Bartolo

Don Bartolo used to be the Countess's guardian and, two years before the opera started, wanted to marry her himself. Figaro saved the Countess from his clutches, and helped her elope with the Count – Bartolo has never forgiven him.